Here we are. Last chapter. I like to thank all of you for sticking with me until the end. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it.
I have to thank my friend Cokie for her input. It really was invaluable, and without her this story would have been just one chapter long. So, you really have to thank her if you liked this, and to blame her if you didn't. LOL - Sam
I will gladly take the blame because *I* enjoyed it. And one chapter? Get real… There's just no way! - Cokie
See more notes at the end. ;-)
All Clear - Chapter 17
Steve sat down in front of Dr. Nelson's desk and waited for his doctor to finish his phone call. He was a bit nervous about what his doctor had to tell him. When he woke up this morning, the headache that had tormented him for so many hours yesterday was finally gone. He had even been able to eat breakfast without getting queasy.
"Commander, how are you this morning?" Dr. Nelson asked after he ended his call.
"Good, thank you."
"No headache anymore?"
"No, not really."
"What does that mean?" Nelson was curious.
"Well, it's hard to explain. It's not pain… it just doesn't feel right, you know?"
Nelson nodded and looked at his computer screen. "I have your latest MRI here, and as I told you yesterday, everything looks good."
"So, I can go home?" Steve asked in hope.
Nelson smiled, but shook his head. "No, Commander, you can't go home just yet. That is why we're here today. To discuss that."
"Why can't I go home and come here for therapy?" Steve asked and made sure not to slur his words. He thought it couldn't hurt to show his doctor that he had made progress, even though it was really hard for him to pronounce every word correctly.
"Commander… Steve, you suffered a severe brain injury. You were in a coma for ten days, and had been unconscious for three days after your initial injury," Nelson began his explanation. "I know you feel fine, and you think you are ready to leave. But let me assure you that you are not."
"I'm not asking to go back to work, just to go home," Steve made that point clear. He knew that he was not ready to go back to work, not even on light duty.
"I know that, and I can understand your impatience," Nelson shared his sympathy with his patient. "But your brain needs time to heal. It will take weeks, probably even months before you are fully healed."
"Months?" Steve asked in shock.
"I'm not saying that you won't be able to go back to work for months to come. That is not the case. But you will continue to feel the effects of your brain injury for many weeks."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm talking about short term memory problems, which I know you experience," Nelson smiled at the sheepish look Steve gave him. "It's normal, Steve, don't worry about it. That will get better soon."
"When I read something… three pages later I have forgotten the names I just read," Steve told his doctor frustrated. "That won't be a permanent problem?"
"No. Do the exercises your speech therapist showed you. He told me that you're doing pretty well and that he can see improvement."
"I use the computer program he showed me. It's getting easier to do," Steve agreed on the improvement part.
"Keep doing that, and I'm sure you will be able to use your short term memory just like before," Nelson said and looked at Steve with a serious face. "Steve, please stop trying so hard to get every word right. You will give yourself a headache again," Nelson told Steve with a smile. "I know your speech has improved a lot, but please don't force it all the time. It should come naturally. You won't do your brain any good if you have a headache, so, please try to relax a little."
"Speech shoul' come withou' thinkin' about it, but if I stop workin' on every word, I speak like dis," Steve grumbled in frustration.
"OK, listen to me. When you do your therapy, and when you practice on your own, reading aloud, you should try to pronounce every word clearly. But you need to give your brain a few breaks during the day," Nelson explained. "When your friends are visiting, relax among them. Don't think about not slurring your words, just talk. I promise your speech will get better; you can't force it. Not all the time."
"OK." Steve was not happy about it, but understood that he couldn't do 'therapy' all day long.
"Next to your memory problems you will most likely suffer headaches, maybe even migraines after a long day. Every time you overexert yourself or tire yourself out, your brain will remind you that it is still on the mend."
"So, I will get headaches. That's no big deal. That shouldn' be a reason to keep me from workin'."
"No, it's not. I told you that you can go back to work in a few weeks. I just want you to understand that even after we allow you back to work; and after your skull fracture is completely healed, your brain will still be healing and will do so for months to come."
"Huh? I don' think I really understand wha' you're trying to tell me," Steve said in slight confusion. "I'll be back to full duty, but I'm no' healed?"
"Steve, you were very lucky not to have any cognitive impairment. You have your faculties intact," Nelson said and paused for a moment. "Think about your brain as a quarterback. You played football, right?"
"Yeah?" Steve wasn't sure where this was going.
"On some days, you throw one perfect pass after the other. But on other days you get tackled, you lose the ball, your passes don't reach their marks."
"I had days like that."
"What happened on those days?"
"Coach took me out," Steve admitted.
"Your brain will have those days. Days when you can't pronounce a word, or forget what you wanted to do. Days where you lose your balance easily, where you get a headache from just thinking about getting out of bed."
Steve frowned at his doctor; that didn't sound very promising.
"When you have one of those days, Steve, you have to take yourself out of the game. That means that your brain needs a day off. Can you do that?"
"I would never endanger my team," Steve told his doctor. "I wouldn't work if I were not a hundred percent."
"If you can promise me that; to stay home, or at least in the office on those days, I will clear you for duty in a few weeks and let you go home after you pass our tests."
"I'll give you my word that I'll stay home, o' go home if I feel off in any way," Steve promised. "Now… wha' tests do I have to pass to get outta here?"
Dr. Nelson laughed at Steve's eagerness. "I have talked to Traci and she told me that you will probably master the balance test in a couple of weeks."
"I've to stay two more weeks?" Steve asked disappointed.
"If you pass it sooner we'll let you go then. But, Steve, I'll be surprised if you can pass it in a week."
"Watch me," Steve challenged.
H50 - H50 - H50
As everyone had expected Steve worked really hard to pass all the necessary tests that would allow him to be released.
Four days after the meeting with Dr. Nelson he was on his way to the gym, by himself… Traci didn't have to escort him from his room. It felt good to be able to walk someplace on his own, and he was pleased to note he didn't feel like a drunk when he walked down the hallway to meet with his therapist. For the first time he was able to walk in a straight line without wandering off course or bumping into obstacles standing in the way.
When he reached the gym he felt really good.
"Good morning," Traci greeted him. "I'll be with you in a few minutes. You can go through a few baskets in the meantime."
"OK." Steve went over and took one of the basketballs out. He like that a lot more than the stupid little squishy balls. He dribbled the ball and made to jog over to throw a few balls, but was stopped by his therapist.
"Steve, no running!"
Steve grumbled under his breath but complied and walked to the basket. It irked him that he was not allowed to run, not even on the treadmill. He had tried to jog two days ago but had complained about a headache almost instantly. So his doctor took running off his PT plan for another few days. But Steve thought at least trying couldn't hurt.
Even though he liked throwing the basketball a lot better, it didn't mean his hit-rate had improved. He was still hitting everything but the damn basket.
"I see you still suck at playing B-ball, Babe," Danny called out.
Steve turned in surprise upon hearing his friend's voice. He had to grin at the sight in front of him. Danny was dressed in a suit and tie, but had his shoes in his hands and walked toward Steve clad in socks. Very colorful socks to be precise.
"What's with the suit?" Steve asked and picked up the ball that again had failed to hit the target.
"Just back from court and wanted to tell you how it went," Danny said after putting down the shoes.
He took the ball from Steve and threw it right into the net without any contact.
"Showoff," Steve said with a grin. He took the offered ball and tried to hit the mark, but again failed by a few feet. He shook his head and turned to Danny who again threw two points. "Wha' were you in court for?"
Steve watched his next ball hit the board and bounce back, of course without getting into the net. "Damn."
"That was close," Danny called out and again grabbed the ball from his friend.
Steve only glared at his partner and watched him make a three pointer that time. "Did ya come here to annoy me, or was there any reason behind your visit?" Steve asked and threw the ball. This time it flew over the board and hit the top window.
"A little high, Babe," Danny said laughing.
"Oh that's rich, pickin' on the handicapped," Steve called out in mock anger but couldn't keep himself from laughing about his inability to put a damn ball into the basket. "So, why were you in court?" Steve asked again and put the ball down.
"The warehouse trial."
"The what?" Steve asked and looked at Danny.
"A few weeks ago, a friend of Denning had a painting stolen. You thought it might be in a warehouse down at the harbor," Danny started to explain.
"No. But we found a lot of illegal stuff and arrests were made later. Their trial is up."
"And they needed you to tell them what we found there?" Steve asked and walked over to his therapist who had motioned for him that she was now ready for him.
"Yeah," Danny said.
"You don't sound really happy," Steve said and turned to Traci. "You've met my partner, Danny Williams?"
"Oh yes, of course. Nice to see you again, Danny. How are you?" Traci asked as she shook hands with Danny.
"Good, thank you. I hope this guy isn't giving you any trouble?" He asked her with a grin.
"I wish all my patients were as motivated," Traci told him still smiling.
"Do you need me to wait outside until you're done?" Danny asked.
"Not because of me," Traci answered. "Steve?"
"No, that's fine, Danny. You can stay."
"Steve, I want you to work on your balance again today."
"Can we do it withou' the harness?" Steve asked in hope.
"Not after yesterday, no."
"What happened yesterday?" Danny wanted to know.
"I fell," Steve provided. "I lost my balance and fell to the floor, hit my arm and sprained my pinky finger." Steve showed his slightly swollen finger on the right hand.
"Did you hurt the broken bone?" Danny asked in worry.
"No, no damage done. Well, twisted my finger, bu' it's no' too bad."
"You could have hit your head. It's my fault, I shouldn't have let you do it," Traci said. "Today you will do it with the safety in place."
Steve sighed dramatically but realized it wasn't worth injury to go without the safety measure. So he didn't complain when Traci helped him put on the harness that would keep him from falling if he lost his balance.
"OK, you're ready to go," Traci announced and clicked the safety hook hanging from the ceiling into the harness.
Steve eyed the balance board suspiciously but then carefully stepped on to it. And of course lost his balance right away. Without the harness he would have been flat on his face.
"Wow," Danny called out. "I'm not sure I could do that."
"You shoul' try it," Steve told him and righted himself again. "They will le' me go when I can stand on dis stupid thing for two minutes."
"Steve, it's not really a balance thing for you. It's all about coordination of your legs. You will master it soon. You're almost there."
"Coordination of his legs? What does that mean?" Danny wanted to know.
"On the balance board Steve needs to use different muscle groups at the right time. He can't do that at the moment," Traci explained. "The signals are not reaching his legs fast enough. To say it in simple terms. It's like with throwing the ball. His arms are not doing what he's telling them accurately or fast enough."
"Uh huh," Danny answered a bit skeptical.
"He's right here, you know that, right?" Steve called out and cursed when he again had to leave the board. But this time he just put a foot down and didn't fall into the harness. "So, Danny, wha' happened at the trial?"
"Defense is challenging my report. He says we didn't have probable cause to enter the warehouse. And with only me recounting the events, he might have a chance to get his clients off."
"Hmm. Anythin' I can do?"
"Yeah, you could remember what happened," Danny said and was only half joking. "Without your witness account they will most likely walk."
"Dr. Nelson said it's very unlikely that I'll recover any memory from the last two months. He said this injury to the brain was a lot worse than the actual hit before that."
"That is true. The bleed caused damage, and it's highly unlikely for patients to regain any lost memory that was caused by such an injury," Traci added information.
"So, that means the findings in the warehouse cannot be used as evidence?" Steve asked.
"No. If the entry was unlawful, all evidence recovered won't be entered into court evidence. And without that… they walk."
"Damn," Steve called out again. This time because of the warehouse situation… and because he fell off the board.
H50 - H50 - H50
Steve McGarrett was pissed. There was just no other way to say it. He had been told this morning that he was scheduled to do the tests five days from today. That was simply not acceptable for him. He had been in this hospital for way too long. And to say it nicely… he was going nuts.
It had been a week since he had the conversation with Dr. Nelson. He was scheduled for another one in the morning, but Steve was not willing to wait any longer. That was why he now sat in Nelson's outer office and was not willing to leave before he had a word with him.
"Commander, I told you I don't know when he will be back," June, Dr. Nelson's assistant told him.
"I'm not leaving until I've spoken with him," Steve said for the second time today.
Steve was clad in jeans and tee shirt, with sneakers on his feet. He had been running around in his own clothes for a few days now, and he just didn't see any reason why he was still stuck in the hospital.
He looked up when the door opened and Dr. Nelson came in. Steve instantly stood up and confronted his neurologist. "Dr. Nelson, I need to talk to you."
Nelson smiled upon seeing his patient. "I was expecting you, Commander. Give me a minute to put these files away and then we can talk."
Well, that was not what Steve had expected and looked in surprise at the smiling doctor. "Thank you," Steve said and nodded his gratitude at Nelson.
"You can go and wait in my office; I'll be right with you."
"OK." Steve didn't need further encouragement and went to sit down in front of Nelson's desk. He only had to wait a couple of minutes for the Neurologist to join him.
"Steve, let me guess, you want to leave," Nelson didn't say it as a question but a statement.
"Yes. I really don't see the need to stay any longer. I can come here for therapy but stay at home."
"Look, I really don't need… wait, what?" Steve asked in confusion.
"I talked to your two therapists today. They came to me to tell me that you staying here would be counterproductive."
"Counter… really?" Steve knew Traci was in his favor to leave, but he had no idea that she would speak out to Nelson about it.
"Yes. Traci knows you are a long way from being back to normal, and even though you haven't passed the balance test, she still believes you should be switched to outpatient status."
"I know I still have a few… OK, some major problems, but I can work on them and still stay at home," Steve argued his case.
"I have set your release date for tomorrow," Nelson said and had to smile at the delight on Steve's face after hearing that. "But before you go I want to have a full work up on you. Blood work, MRI, and all we can think of," Dr. Nelson further explained. "I'm really concerned about your continued balance problems and the headaches."
"The headaches are gettin' a lot better, they are not that bad," Steve assured Nelson.
"That might be the case, but you shouldn't have a headache every day. I just want to do some final tests before we let you go."
"OK. So, I don't have to pass the balance test to be released?" Steve asked. He was nowhere near passing that stupid test. He simply couldn't stay on the board.
"No. But you have to pass it before you will be declared fit for duty. I will however allow you to go to the office part time," Nelson said.
Steve looked at his doctor in surprise, a smile tugging the corners of his mouth.
Nelson pointed a finger at his patient. "I thought that might make you happy. But, Steve, listen to me. You are not, I repeat, not to leave the office for anything that even looks remotely like field work. Is that understood?"
"Loud and clear," Steve assured his doctor.
"I must say I'm amazed, Commander."
"Wha' do you mean?"
"Your speech is almost back to normal," Nelson started to say but was interrupted by Steve.
"No, it's not. You shoul' hear me in a few hours when I get tired. My speech is kind of OK in the mornin', but when the day progresses it gets worse," Steve explained that strange phenomena.
Steve knew that he still spoke slower than usual, and his words, even though a lot better than just a couple of days ago, were still a little slurred. He didn't cut off the endings that often any more, but it was still not a clear speech.
"But you have come a really long way in such a short time. You should be proud of what you have accomplished. You've done a really good job," Nelson complimented him.
"Thank you," Steve answered.
"So, I scheduled you for an MRI this afternoon, and I'll call your nurse to draw blood and collect a urine sample when you're back in your room," Nelson said and made some notes in Steve's file.
"Wha' do you hope to find?" Steve wanted to know.
"Hopefully nothing. Every person reacts differently to a brain injury. This might be your normal way, out of the norm, but perfectly normal for you. I just want to make sure that there is nothing we need to address before you leave."
"I will discuss the findings, and your further care with you tomorrow before you will be released," Nelson informed Steve. "Do you have any further questions?"
"Not that I can think of right now," Steve answered.
"Good. If you agree, I would like Lieutenant Rollins present when we talk tomorrow. Some of what I have to tell you will also affect her."
"Uh, OK," Steve said and wasn't sure what that meant.
H50 - H50 - H50
Steve had spent the better part of his afternoon in the gym; first practicing his aim and then he tackled the balance board with vigor. So much so that Traci had finally banned him to his room. He was told that he was on a time out.
Later he had been subjected to all kinds of tests, and he felt like they had drained him of all blood. The evening he had spent with Catherine, still worried about what his doctor would tell him in the morning.
The day had been a long one and his energy level went to zero rather quick, so Cath left around eight with the promise to come back early to talk to his doctor and hopefully take him home.
The night had been short and he was now picking at his breakfast. If one could call it that.
"Time out my ass," Steve grumbled out loud and was startled when he heard laughter coming from the door. He turned around and seeing Cath standing there made him smile. "Hey, how long you've been standin' there?"
"Long enough to hear your rant," Cath answered with a grin and greeted her friend with a kiss. "What's going on?" She asked and looked down at the stuff on his plate that the hospital kitchen called scrambled eggs.
"Huh? Nothin'. I was just thinkin' about what Traci said yesterday," Steve explained and pushed the tray out of his sight.
"You're still mad about that? Steve, you won't even have time to go to PT today. I bet when we are finally home you won't even want to do any PT," Catherine told him.
"Well, first we need to wait here for you to officially be released; you know how long that can take. Then we head over to Kamekona's for a late lunch or early dinner, depends on when we're outta here," Cath said. Seeing his questioning looks she explained further. "You promised to have lunch with the guys at Kamekona's as soon as you're out."
"Cath, I didn't mean literally the same day," Steve whined.
"Well, too bad. They are looking forward to it. And it will do you good to get something 'real' to eat."
"They? Who's they?"
"Danny, Chin, Max, me and Kamekona. Come on, it will be fun. Besides having dinner there gives us free time at home. Time we can use otherwise," Cath suggested.
"Oh, you have something special in mind, Lieutenant?"
"I can think of a few things, Commander."
H50 - H50 - H50
"You cannot engage in any activity that raises your blood pressure above a certain level," Nelson told Steve but also looked at Catherine.
"What?" Steve asked, but was fairly certain what his doctor was talking about.
"High blood pressure would still be a risk for you at the moment. That is one of the reason why you have been kept at the hospital. It's a controlled environment, and we needed to keep an eye on your blood pressure."
"So, no running on the beach?" Steve asked.
Nelson laughed, but sobered before he answered. "No sex for at least the next two weeks."
"Two weeks?" Steve couldn't believe that. "Are you serious?"
"Very. I can't allow you to engage in any sexual activity until your brain has further healed. Your bed is for sleeping only," he added with a smile.
"What are his risks, Dr. Nelson?" Catherine wanted to know. "Should he stay in the hospital?"
"NO! I'm not staying here. I will become a monk if I have to, but I'm not staying another night in this place," Steve called out.
"You don't have to," Nelson told him smiling. "But to make something clear. When I'm talking about high blood pressure, I'm not talking about slightly raised BP. I'm talking about stroking-out-high-blood pressure. Causing irreparable damage," Nelson stopped when he saw the shocked faces. "Steve, you had a life threatening brain injury. You were bleeding inside your skull for over a week and your brain was seriously compromised by that. It's not visible from the outside, but you were critically injured, and you are a long way from being back to normal."
"But I can still go home?"
"Yes. But please remember, an injury like yours doesn't heal in a couple of weeks. It takes months, for some people even years."
"Years?" Steve meekly asked.
"Not for you. I think you will bounce back in the next eight weeks. That is the time frame we all agreed on, after discussing your case and likely outcome," Nelson told them about his discussions with his colleagues.
"That would be six months from the first injury," Catherine said.
"Yeah, that's about right. And Steve will be lucky if he doesn't have any lingering effects by that time."
"OK. Eight weeks, I can work with that," Steve said, being glad to finally have a goal.
"Good. We need to discuss your therapy schedule. We think it best if you come here every day after lunch. That gives you half a day at work and after therapy you can go home."
"You want me to come every day?" Steve asked in hope. He had been worried that he would be further restricted in his PT.
"For the next two weeks, yes. And we want you to keep watch of your blood pressure and keep a diary about it. You have to measure it a few times a day. Especially after activity like climbing stairs and such."
"OK. Anything else?"
"Yes, one more thing. Don't ignore the signals your body will send you. If you get a headache, stop what you're doing and rest."
"We already talked about that," Steve grumbled.
"I know. But I know that when people start to feel better, when they start to have more energy to stay on their feet for longer periods of times, they also start to ignore their body's signals. Don't do that. Or you will be back here faster than you can imagine."
That was something Steve wanted to avoid at all costs. And if that would mean to not engage in any fun activity with his girlfriend, then so be it.
"What about my arm? Do I get rid of the cast?" Steve asked about the x-rays they had taken yesterday.
"No, not for another week. But you will most likely get rid of it in the next ten days," Nelson informed him. "Do either of you has any questions?"
"Is there anything else we need to watch out for?" Cath wanted to know. "I mean any signs that should make us come back?"
"If you experience severe headaches that won't even abate after taking your prescription pills, come back here. Other than that you're free to do whatever you feel up to. No driving," he added as an afterthought. "But until you're cleared for light duty in a couple of weeks that was a given anyway."
Steve didn't think it was a given at all, but kept his mouth shut. Seeing the smile on Catherine's face he realized she knew him too well. He smiled back at her and turned to his doctor. "What about swimming?"
"Please wait until the cast is off, but then there is no counter indication about swimming. As I said, you are free to do whatever you feel good about. No running for a few more weeks though."
"Why not?" Catherine wondered.
"Running could jar the brain. Steve, remember the immediate pain you felt when you tried to jog on the treadmill? Running is like mini-concussions to the brain. You should avoid that for a few weeks."
"OK. No driving, no running, no sex. Anything else?" Steve asked a bit frustrated.
"I know you're not happy about the restrictions, but I assure you the alternative would be worse."
"What would that be?" Steve asked.
"Your friends attending your funeral," Dr. Nelson told them bluntly.
"Oh." Steve looked at Catherine and could see in her eyes that she would make sure he followed the instructions to the letter. "I'll keep that in mind."
"You do that. I want to see you again next week. It will take a couple of hours to get your papers in order but then you are free to go."
"Thank you. For all you've done for me," Steve said and meant every word. He knew that without Dr. Nelson and his skills in the OR he wouldn't be sitting next to his girlfriend right now.
The specialist from Tripler had talked to him a couple of days ago and told him that the bleed had been undetectable and that he had been extremely lucky to have a skilled surgeon like Nelson who had been able to save his life and prevent any permanent damage.
Steve had seen a lot of injuries similar to his own in the military and he knew he was one of the lucky ones. Because of that, he would take his time and do what it took to fully mend his 'broken' brain. That didn't mean that he wasn't chomping at the bit waiting for the paperwork and his prescriptions to come through and once they did, he barely said goodbye. He had his duffel in one hand and held Catherine's hand in the other, headed for the door.
"Slow down, Steve. "We're not going to a fire," she said, laughing at his eagerness.
"It might be a trick," he replied, grinning at her as they walked through the double doors taking them to the parking lot. "Let's go eat. Suddenly I'm starved."
H50 - H50 - H50
A/N: This is not really the end even though this story is complete. You will get two more parts to this story. The bad guys from the warehouse got away, and Cokie said we can't have that. So, there will be a conclusion to that storyline. A one-shot coming to you soon. (YES, just one chapter.) so she says…
And Cath thought she and Steve needed to reenact some of the lost memories. Another one-shot coming your way. It will be part of the Pillow Talk series over at whump-2-go and is kind of an epilogue.
I hope you all will be coming back and start reading Cokie's and my story "Stairway to Heaven", coming very soon.
Again, thank you for reading.