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Prisoner of the Hospital

Part 1

Adam wasnt quite finished with his assignment by the time his shift ended. It was only 2:00. He always wished that he could have longer shifts, but on most days, 2:00 was the latest he could work in order to allow enough time for all his medical appointments.

“Sorry I didnt get the project finished,” Adam told his supervisor, Nora, as he gathered all his belongings into his backpack. “Ill try to stay more focused tomorrow.”

“Oh, no worries, Adam!” Nora said gratefully. She put an affectionate hand on his shoulder before he headed out. “I know youll get it done in no time. Youre always such a hard worker. You go on and have a good day, and Ill see you tomorrow.”

Mrs. Monroe was waiting in her car outside the studio, ready, as usual, to give her son a ride to his medical appointments. “Hows it going?” He asked out of habit as he got into the passenger seat.

“Okay. Someone donated a huge load of clothing today,” his mother replied, referring to her job at CharityVision. “Im going to have to recruit more volunteers soon. How has your day been?”

“Also okay. Just couldnt get everything done on time, as usual,” Adam replied. He took a few bottles of medication and vitamins out of his backpack and washed a few pills down with a water bottle. He mostly used his right hand to do all this. His fractured left wrist was in a cast, allowing him to use only the fingertips on his left hand.

“Well, you usually get more done in five hours than your colleagues do in nine,” his mother said encouragingly. When they arrived at the hospital, Mrs. Monroe dropped her son off near the neurology ward for his first appointment. “See you a few hours,” she said before driving off.

Adam made his way into the hospitals neurology ward, the people around him walking at least twice as fast. He was used to walking slowly. He had problems that required him to wear walking casts on both feet at all times. He knew that the casts slowed his pace significantly, and he often wished he could simply take them off and walk normally. Whenever he started to feel too tempted, however, he would just remind himself of the last time he had “cheated”, and taken a few steps without the casts. He had immediately fallen flat on his face, fracturing both feet in several places at a time. He had needed surgery to repair some of the fractures and had been confined to a wheelchair for months afterward. To make matters worse, the fall had also fractured his right wrist as well as his jaw. But he was used to fractures. At any given time, he was usually dealing with at least one fracture. He hated having fractures anywhere, but he was relieved his right wrist was currently okay, as he needed it for his job.

I may walk slowly, he thought to himself, but at least I can walk at all. These walking casts sure beat the wheelchair.

“Have we been taking care of ourselves?” Dr. James, the neurologist, asked Adam as he took his pulse a few minutes later. “Taking all our medicine and keeping our monitor on at all times?”

“Yes, Dr. James,” Adam responded, pointing to the banded monitor he was still wearing around his own head. He didnt think twice about the fact that Dr. James took Adams vitals himself, rather than leaving it to a medical assistant or nurse. Adam was used to this. All of his doctors, during their appointments with him, took these “lowly” duties into their own hands. They all viewed Adam as an incredibly unique and fascinating medical study and they were eager to know the ins and outs of his health, down to the last detail.

“Your pulse feels a little out of whack,” Dr. James said as he strapped Adams arm into a blood pressure monitor. “I know thats not in my jurisdiction, though. Ill send the report to Dr. Frank.”

For the dozenth time that week, Adam felt the familiar tightening of the cuff around his upper arm. “Tsk, tsk,” the doctor said after a moment. “Only 82/51. Youve got to keep up with your medication, Adam, and your sodium intake. Ill let Dr. Frank know about this as well.”

I have been keeping up with my medication and sodium, Adam thought silently. He was used to his doctors making assumptions about him and his habits.

“Have you been wearing the compression stockings?” Dr. Frank nagged. “You know you need those to stop the blood from pooling in your legs. You know that will help raise your blood pressure and prevent you from fainting. I see that youve still got that wrist fracture, too. Again, not my jurisdiction, but its been two months since you broke that wrist. I hope Dr. DeYoung is staying on top of that.”

Yeah, yeah, Adam thought to himself.

“Okay, lets get started,” Dr. James said eagerly. “Id like to test your nerve function.”

Adams stomach dropped. He hated this test. It was very painful. “I think my nerve function has been okay,” he protested.

“But there are still significant abnormalities on your monitor,” Dr. James said. “We really need to make sure were staying on top of these problems.”

“I didnt notice any nerve pain this week,” Adam continued. He felt guilty for saying this because he knew it was a lie; he was almost constantly feeling pulses of pain in several parts of his extremities. But oh, how he hated the nerve tests; they were far more painful.

“That doesnt necessarily mean that your nerves are okay,” Dr. James persisted. “Come on, lets get you set up.” Adam just looked at him silently, fearfully. “Adam, Im afraid its not optional. Weve got to do this.”

And so Adam trudged back to the exam table and allowed the doctor to glue dozens of electrodes all over his body, from his head to his fingertips to his feet. The doctor sat back with a remote control and pressed a button. “This is the lowest voltage,” he said. “Where do you feel it?”

“In my right calf,” Adam said. The voltage was low enough that it felt like nothing more than a tingling sensation.

“Next highest voltage,” Dr. James said, pressing another button. “Where do you feel it?”

“Near my right cheekbone,” Adam replied, feeling a mild, fleeting pain.

“Next voltage.”

“In my left pointer finger.” The pain made it feel like his finger was being pinched.

“Next voltage.”

Adam reported the brief sting he felt on his left thigh.

“Next voltage.”

“My right knee,” he said, feeling like his joint had been punched.

“Next voltage.”

Adam let out a brief yelp and reported the brief stab of pain in his right knuckle.

“Next voltage.”

The pain was sharper this time and he couldnt help but whimper. “M-my left shoulder.”

“Next voltage.”

This time, it took all he had not to weep in pain. “Doc-doctor James, can we p-please stop?”

“Hang in there, Adam. I know its hard but weve still got a few more to go. Where did you feel it?”

“Left foot.” He figured the pain was stronger here than it would be elsewhere, given that his feet were always in tender condition. He swallowed hard, bracing himself for the next shock.

“Next voltage.”

Adam yelped again and this time his eyes started to water. “The right side of my jaw,” he said, lifting his hand up to cradle his still-throbbing jaw.

“Please put your hand down and keep still,” the doctor said. “Next voltage.”

Adam groaned involuntarily and the tears spilled from his eyes. “Th-the l-left side of my chest.”

“Just one more. Next voltage.”

Adam sobbed audibly. “My left wrist.” He was silently furious at the doctor for using the highest voltage on what was currently one of his most vulnerable body parts. The fracture continued to throb painfully for at least five more minutes while the doctor carefully removed each electrode from Adams body.

“Were all done. Now, that wasnt so bad, was it?” Dr. James asked, ignoring the silent tears streaming down Adams face. “Youre so much more cooperative than when I first met you. Thanks for being such a trooper,” the doctor continued as soon as Adam sat up. “I think you deserve a treat for that.” He got up and rummaged through a desk drawer, then handed Adam a canned nutritional shake. “Im sure Dr. Stewart will thank me for giving you this,” he said with a wink. “Itll improve your iron levels.”

“Thanks,” Adam muttered, his eyes downcast as he reached for a tissue. Fortunately he had stopped crying, but he still had a few leftover tears to dab.

“Do you have any free time this weekend?” Dr. James asked. “The neurology team and I will be doing some extensive studies, and you know were all very intrigued by your case. It would be a valuable learning experience for us all if you could come in for some tests.”

Jeez, you know, Id love to, but I was thinking of walking off a cliff instead, Adam thought to himself. “No thanks,” he said politely.

Dr. James was visibly annoyed but tried to hide it. “Well, let me know if you change your mind. You know youre always more than welcome here, any time of the week.”

“Thanks,” Adam said, carefully getting up onto his walking casts, trying not to disturb his still-aching wrist fracture.

“Oh, silly me, theres one last thing,” the doctor said before Adam reached the door. “We need to get some blood from you. Check your neurotransmitter levels.”

Adam looked at his watch. It was nearly 4:00. “Can it wait until next time? Im almost late for my meeting with Dr. DeYoung.”

“Im sorry, but its crucial that we get this checked immediately,” Dr. James replied, motioning to the exam chair. Adam sighed inaudibly and slowly sat back down. Again, the doctor performed the blood draw himself instead of leaving it to an assistant. He wanted to witness every possible detail about this fascinating subject.

“Okay, now youre good to go,” the doctor said cheerfully after filling the third vial of blood. Adam felt faint and slightly nauseated as he stood up. He was used to this feeling. He was losing blood almost daily at his medical appointments. No wonder I can never seem to shake this anemia.

“You doing okay over there?” Dr. James asked when Adam was almost to the door. His voice sounded tinny and distant. As Adam turned around to glance at the doctor, his vision started to turn gray, and the nausea intensified. The doctor started to rush over. “Adam?”

When Adam came to, he had to study the room for a few moments before he realized he was in a different area of the hospital. As several more minutes passed, he became more and more cognizant, and eventually realized that Dr. James and Dr. DeYoung, Adams orthopedist, were speaking with each other in the hallway. “Dr. Frank needs to know about it immediately,” he heard Dr. James tell his colleague. “Dr. Stewart, too, certainly. We dont know yet whether its from his anemia or hypotension or something else.”

“It could even be his glucose,” Dr. DeYoung, the orthopedist, chimed in. “Better let Dr. Campbell know, too. Maybe Dr. Frank, as well; I know that the patients heart hasnt been in the best shape.”

Adam glanced at all the machinery surrounding the exam table, realizing that he was attached to a couple of IVs and several monitors. The beeping of the heart monitor suddenly broke its pattern, emitting a brief series of irregular beats. This caught the attention of both of the doctors and they rushed in from the hallway.

“How are you feeling, Adam?”

“Okay,” Adam said, which was mostly untrue. He rarely felt healthy. But he was quite used to losing consciousness for one reason or another.

Dr. Frank, the cardiologist, rushed in several minutes later. After examining Adams monitors for a moment, he turned to Dr. DeYoung. “I know you had a 4:00 scheduled with Adam,” he said to the orthopedist, “but do you mind postponing? Theres clearly a cardiologic problem, and his heart must take precedence.”

“I understand,” the orthopedist replied, looking disappointed. “How long do you expect this to take? An hour? I can take him in at 5:00 instead.”

“I need to be home by 5:00,” Adam spoke up. “Ive got work to do.”

Dr. Frank chuckled. “Im afraid youre not going anywhere, Adam. Not in the shape youre in.” He back turned to the orthopedist. “I will need to perform extensive tests, so I dont think hell be ready for you by 5:00. 6:00, maybe, if were lucky.”

“Youre the boss,” Dr. DeYoung replied, phonily cheerful. “Send me a line when youre done with him.” He and Dr. James then left the room.

“All right, lets get down to business,” Dr. Frank said, turning back to Adam. “Have you been diligent about keeping your holter monitor on?” He lifted Adams hospital gown to look at the cords all over his chest before the young man had a chance to respond. “Good. Very good.”

Adam had thought that hed be done with all his appointments by 5:00. He had told his supervisor, Nora, that he would try to get some extra work done from home tonight. He now felt guilty that he wasnt going to be able to keep his promise, and he also felt impatient and restless. He just wanted to go home and have some time to himself, for once.

“I really think Im okay,” he spoke up, attempting to postpone this cardiology appointment. “I feel fine. I could probably come see you another time and just go see Dr. DeYoung now like wed planned.”

“Dr. DeYoung can wait,” the cardiologist replied firmly, studying the results on the monitors. “And regardless of how you may feel, youre certainly not fine. I can see on these monitors that youve still been having frequent episodes.”

Over the next couple of hours Adam underwent an EKG, an echocardiogram, and a stress test on a treadmill. These tests were all very routine for him; he was used to them. The doctor also reattached the holter monitor to Adams chest after recording the data it had gathered over the past week. “Has Dr. James been putting electrodes near your heart again?” Dr. Frank asked in annoyance at one point. “Hes got to stop doing that! Hes going to put you in cardiac arrest one of these days with all his electrical impulses. Im going to send him another memo to stop all these exercises in torture.”

“Thank you,” Adam replied with sincere relief, hoping the message would actually get through this time.

“Well, its 6:15 now,” Dr. Frank said at the end of the appointment. “Lets get you over to the orthopedic ward.”

Adam got up from the exam table and took a step toward the door. “You shouldnt be walking all that way,” Dr. Frank said, stepping into Adams path. “Not in your condition. Just hang tight.” He brought over a wheelchair, and Adam got in and allowed the doctor to wheel him to his next appointment in the orthopedic ward.

“So we meet again,” Dr. DeYoung said with a smile, shaking Adams right hand. “Before the x-rays, lets do your monthly bone density scan.”

Adam followed him to the machine. He lay down on the table and waited while the overhead part of the machine scanned the length of his body several times. When Adam was instructed to sit up afterward, he saw the doctor staring at a computer screen. “Just checking out your results, here,” the doctor informed Adam. He continued looking at the screen, and Adam couldnt help but notice that the doctors face slowly took on an alarmed expression.

“Well,” Dr. DeYoung said after several minutes of examining the images, “I was hoping for a more positive trend regarding your bone health, but Im afraid its even worse than last time.”

Adams stomach dropped, though he didnt know why. He was certainly used to hearing bad news.

“We were all concerned when you were showing signs of osteopenia a few years ago. At this point, Im afraid the weakening of your bones has progressed and can no longer be classified as osteopenia. You are now officially osteoporotic. Your bones are very frail. Theyre comparable to the bones of a ninety-year-old woman.”

“Ah… I see,” Adam muttered.

Dr. DeYoung attempted cheerfulness. “Dont let that get you down, though,” he said, playfully punching Adams shoulder. “There are ways to manage this. Well talk about it later. For now, lets get that wrist x-rayed.”

The doctor, as usual, performed the x-rays himself, rather than leaving it to an assistant. A few minutes later, Adam was waiting on the exam table while the doctor studied the images. Adam started to feel a tight, wet, sticky sensation the back of his throat, realizing that his nasal passages were bleeding back into his throat. “Can I have a tissue?” he cried out as he sat up quickly. The blood started streaming down his lips.

“Oh, no, again? Your nose bled last time, too,” Dr. DeYoung said. He put a tissue box on Adams lap and got back to the x-ray images. “Adam, have you been avoiding gripping things with your left hand like I asked you to? Even with osteoporosis, your fracture really should be healing by now, but it isnt.”

“I use my fingertips sometimes,” Adam replied sheepishly. “I try to avoid using the lower part of my hand.”

“Well, the bone is being uncooperative, once again,” Dr. DeYoung said. “Im going to suggest you use that hand as little as possible; avoid it altogether if you can. Make sure you dont put any pressure on your wrist when youre getting up from a seated position. If you didnt have osteoporosis, I wouldnt be stressing these things so much, but youve really got to be careful. And try the bone stimulator again. Youve had at least a little success with that in the past.” He got up and rummaged through a cabinet and took out a small white circular device. “I think youll like this little machine,” he said as he fastened it around Adams arm, just below the cast. “Its a bone stimulator that you can wear all the time so that you dont have to take any extra time to stimulate the bones yourself.”

“Cool,” Adam muttered. “Um, wheres a garbage can?” The tissue he was holding under his nose had become so saturated that blood was starting to drip out of it.

Dr. DeYoung quickly brought a trash can over and handed Adam a new tissue. “Well, this is worrisome,” he remarked. “I hope Dr. Retke has a plan for this problem of yours. Are you also keeping Dr. Stewart updated? He needs to know about this continual blood loss.”

“They both know about it,” Adam replied obediently, already starting to feel the new tissue fill with blood.

“Well, in any event,” Dr. DeYoung said, “lets continue with the x-rays.” And with that, Adams feet and ankles were x-rayed for about the hundredth time in his life. “Still not looking great,” the doctor said in a disheartened tone as he studied the images. “The thinning and weakening of your bones is more apparent in your your metatarsals than anywhere else.”

Great, Adam thought to himself sullenly.

“I know youre already taking calcium supplements,” the doctor said, “but try to include more dairy in your diet, too. Along with more kale and other calcium-rich greens. And try some weight-bearing exercises, but be careful because if you overdo it, youll just develop more fractures. Its easy for someone with osteoporosis to overdo it.”

“Yes, Dr. DeYoung.”

“And stay in those walking casts, for sure. I dont want you walking around in tennis shoes and ruining the progress weve made. I can see those metatarsals of yours being irreparably shattered if you step on them improperly.”

“Yes, Dr. DeYoung,” Adam repeated, wondering dejectedly if he was ever going to get full use of his feet back.

“Chin up, Adam,” the doctor said cheerfully. “The ability to walk is a beautiful thing. Yes, you have osteoporosis, but you should be grateful that you can walk at all.” Adam nodded in agreement. “Just remember all those months of crutches and wheelchairs. You, my friend, are mobile!”

Adam laughed at Dr. DeYoungs enthusiasm, and was also relieved to discover that his nose had finally stopped bleeding. At the end of the appointment, as he started to get up from the exam table, his head started pounding and his vision started darkening. He immediately sat back down.

“Whoa, whoa, youre looking a little pale, there,” Dr. DeYoung observed. He put on a stethoscope and held it to Adams chest. “Your heart actually sounds normal at the moment.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “Id call Dr. Stewart, because Im sure hes as concerned about your iron levels as I am, but Im afraid hes out of the office by now.”

“Its okay,” Adam said, secretly feeling relieved that he didnt have to go to another appointment tonight. “This happens all the time. Ill just get up slowly.”

“Lets get you a wheelchair instead,” Dr. DeYoung insisted. As Adam got into the wheelchair a moment later, he thought about the irony of everything the doctor had just told him about the beauty of mobility.

Adam was very hungry by the time he finished his appointments. When he got into his mothers car for a ride home, he was overjoyed to see the diabetic meal she had packed for him. It was a huge relief to know that he wouldnt have to take the time to prepare a meal himself. At the same time, though, he felt ashamed that he was 24 years old and that his mother was still taking care of him in so many ways.

As usual, he checked his blood sugar level when he got home, then checked it again after his meal. He had Type I diabetes, usually referred to as “juvenile onset”, but he hadnt developed this medical condition until age 22. This was one of many, many reasons why doctors found him so fascinating. Even after dealing with the condition for two years, he still wasnt entirely used to it, and he still felt very bitter about having to stab his own skin almost a dozen times a day. There had been a few occasions in the beginning when he had been too fed-up to deal with it and had skipped the glucose checks and the insulin shots. The consequences had been dire. Each time, he had nearly slipped into a coma, and it had taken him only a few hours to reach this state. As if this werent punishment enough, several of his doctors had become very angry with him, essentially threatening to make him a prisoner of the hospital if he didnt try harder to take care of himself.

After dinner, Adam was still home, plowing through some assignments he hadnt been able to finish at the office. Just as he was starting to get into a groove, his phone rang. His stomach dropped when he saw “Dr. James” on the caller ID. The neurologist was one of his least-favorite doctors. He was about to pick up the call but then stopped himself. Ive already wasted two hours with you today, Dr. James, and its only going to keep happening each week, Adam thought to himself bitterly.

Adam checked his voicemail a few minutes later. “Adam, hello. Did I catch you at a bad time? I thought you would be home by this point. Anyway, I tested your blood this evening and I need to get in touch with you immediately to discuss the results. It is critical that you call me back the moment you hear this message. Thanks Adam.” click.

Adams stomach dropped once again at this alarming development, though he didnt know why… he was getting bad news about his health all the time and felt that he should be used to it by now, totally unfazed.

Before he had time to think of anything else, his phone rang once again. This time it was Nora, his supervisor at the office. She stayed on the phone with him for twenty minutes, describing all the work that still needed to get done before tomorrow morning. “If its too much work for you, just let me know,” she said kindly. “I know how busy you are. I can assign the work to Morgan or Jill if its too much.”

Adam wanted very badly to stay up and do the work, but he knew that both Dr. James and Dr. Klein would chastise him endlessly if he continued with his poor sleep habits. “I can work on it for another couple of hours,” he said, forgetting about Dr. James voicemail. “But thats it.”

An hour later his phone rang once again, and he was filled with dread to see that once again, his neurologist was calling. I really dont have time for this, he thought to himself. Whatever it is, Im sure it can wait until tomorrow. Eventually he heard the ding of a new voicemail notification, but ignored it, just wanting to get his assignment done. He also tried his best to ignore the pulses of pain and micro muscle spasms he kept feeling all over his body.

Four months later, it was Adams first day of work at his new office.

“This job is a dream come true,” he said to his new supervisor, Kirk.

Kirk laughed. “Glad you like it. Were happy youre here.” Kirk made no mention of the fact that Adam looked as white as a ghost, nor did he question the fact that Adam was constantly trembling. He knew that Adam had a lot of medical conditions and he felt it would be rude to bring any of them up, assuming they werent interfering with his work.

Adam felt very relaxed and fulfilled later when he was working in his new cubicle. The office was so much quieter than his old office, and the air conditioner was at just the right setting. Mentally, he felt wonderful. Physically, though, he felt as terrible as usual. He repeatedly noticed his heart skipping a beat. Every time he stood up, his vision started to black out, forcing him to sit back down and try again very, very slowly. He was also having a hard time keeping his stylus steady as he drew. His hands felt incredibly weak and shaky.

As he worked, his phone started ringing, and his stomach dropped when he saw that it was Dr. Stewart, his hematologist. He badly wanted to ignore the call, but he had already ignored two of the doctors calls last week, and none of his doctors took well to avoidance. He begrudgingly answered the call. “Hello?”

“Adam? Hello, its Dr. Stewart. Ive called you several times. Is everything okay? How are you feeling?”

“Everything is fine, Dr. Stewart,” Adam lied.

“You missed your appointment last week,” Dr. Stewart said, his voice conveying a mixture of disappointment and shock.

Adam felt his stomach drop again. He had purposely skipped the appointment because he wanted to get in some overtime at work. “Oh, Im sorry,” he told the doctor. “I try to stay on top of all my appointments but there are just so many, that sometimes I forget,” he lied.

Dr. Stewarts reply was stern. “Id like to be lenient about this, Adam, but Im afraid I cant. The fact that you missed an appointment and then ignored my calls leads me to believe that youre purposely avoiding me. This has happened before and we have warned you to be more careful. I dont know how many warnings you expect from us before we can take proper disciplinary action in response to your avoidance.”

Adams heart was racing, now, with anxiety. “Im sorry,” he managed, his voice barely audible.

“Ill let it go one last time,” the doctor said, his voice temporarily soft. It quickly became rigid again as he continued, “but if it happens again, or if any staff from your medical team reports this type of behavior again, Im going to have no choice but to contact the authorities and have you detained in the hospital.”

“It wont happen again,” Adam muttered, his voice shaky.

“It had better not,” Dr. Stewart said. “Anyway, since you missed your last appointment with me, Ive rescheduled you for this afternoon at 1:30. Ive checked with the other doctors to confirm that you dont have any other appointments in that time slot. I know youre free at that time so I expect to see you. Have a nice day.” And with that, the doctor hung up.

Adam put his head down on his desk, feeling defeated. Most of his new coworkers had a full schedule, not getting out of work until 6:30. Kirk, his boss, made an exception for him on medical grounds, agreeing that Adam could finish work at 2:30 on most days so that hed have enough time for his appointments. It was only his first day of work and he was already going to have to ask his boss for another exception.

A few hours later, he started his slow walk to Dr. Stewarts office. Dr. Klein, Adams sleep specialist, spotted Adam making his way down the hall, “Hi, Adam! Where are you headed?” Dr. Klein asked, noting the young mans ghostly white appearance and trembling limbs. “You shouldnt be walking unless you have to.”

“Just headed to Dr. Stewarts,” Adam mumbled.

Dr. Klein quickly found a wheelchair and motioned for Adam to sit down. “Thanks, but Im good,” Adam said. He always felt like a failure when he had to resort to the wheelchair.

“I dont think you are,” the doctor countered. “You look about ready to faint.”

Okay, fine, Adam angrily thought to himself as he took a seat. You win this time, body. I hate you so much.

“Thanks for bringing him in, Dr. Klein,” Dr. Stewart said when Adam arrived, wheeled in by the sleep specialist. “Help me get him onto the exam table, will you?”

“I can do it,” Adam said, starting to stand from his wheelchair.

Without saying anything, Dr. Stewart gently but firmly pushed Adams shoulders down so that he was back in the wheelchair. Then he and Dr. Klein each carried Adam by his underarms and his knees and set him down on the exam table. “Thanks again, Dr. Klein,” the hematologist said. “Ill take it from here.”

Without saying a word, Dr. Stewart gently folded Adams forearm right-side-up so his palm was facing upward on his lap. Then, still in silence, Dr. Stewart inserted a needle into Adams vein.

Adam felt unnerved by this silent treatment. “Just drawing some blood?” He asked.

The doctor said nothing, focusing on the medical equipment and not making eye contact. When the draw was complete, the doctor gently pushed Adams shoulders down, forcing him to lie down on the table. Then he set the tube on the counter and started testing the blood immediately, still not saying a word.

Adam started to sit up. The doctor turned his head at the sound of this movement and came back over to gently push Adam back into a lying position. He then resumed his lab work.

“Why do you want me to lie down?” Adam finally managed to ask, feeling unspeakably intimidated.

The doctor remained silent. It wasnt until several minutes later that he started speaking. To Adams amazement, the doctor was speaking into a recording device, and not actually addressing Adam. “The patient has severe iron-deficiency anemia,” the doctor spoke to the machine, “severe enough to be fatal. At this point it is likely affecting his heart. The patient has supposedly been taking iron supplements for months, but the anemia has worsened a great deal. He is at high risk for falling and fainting. Given his horrifically low bone density, this also puts him at a very great risk for fractures. An immediate transfusion is necessary. The patient will also need to start coming in for iron injections at least once a week. Thorough testing must be done to determine why the supplements have not been effective. It may take daily testing for months to come to a detailed conclusion.”

The doctor then came over and swabbed alcohol onto Adams arm once again. Without a word, he inserted an IV into Adams arm, then returned to his recording device at the counter. “The patient also has a severe B12 deficiency, as well as elevated levels of neutrophils, lymphocytes, and platelets. Further testing will be necessary for each of these items. The patients neurologist will be informed of the B12 deficiency.”

Adam was terrified by the situation and especially by Dr. Stewarts behavior. But he did notice, as he lay there, that he was gradually feeling better physically. His heart was no longer skipping beats, and his shakiness grew less intense. It must be from whatevers in the IV, he thought. He gazed up at the IV tube and felt a little horrified when he saw that blood was going into his arm.

“Please strip from the waist down.”

The transfusion was finally done, and Dr. Stewarts request struck Adam as odd, not only because it was strange to finally hear the doctor addressing him personally, but also because he never expected this request from a hematologist.

Adam wanted to ask why, but decided hed be better off not questioning the doctor and just doing as he was told, or else the doctor might take matters into his own hands.

“Now, lie facing the wall.”

Adam did so, and he felt alcohol being swabbed on the right side of his butt. Then he felt a needle going in.

“You may change back into your clothes now.”

Adam started to sit up to do this, but the doctor once more pressed him down into a lying position. “Its just easier to get dressed when Im not lying down,” Adam muttered sheepishly, but he managed to do it anyway, his arm and his butt still feeling sore from the needles.

“As long as youre under the close care of a physician, you should be fine,” Dr. Stewart said eventually. “So Im not going to cancel any of your other appointments today. I will, however, have to ask you to remain at the hospital overnight.”

“Really?” Adams spirits dropped at this news, not only because he hated being at the hospital, but also because he wanted to make sure he made it to work on time the next morning. “Can I get out by around 8:00 AM tomorrow?”

“Youre going to need several more transfusions and injections over the next few days,” Dr. Stewart said. He paused for a moment in thought. “I really feel it would be best if you stayed at the hospital for at least a week.”

Adam wanted to cry, and he desperately scrambled for some kind of excuse to get out of this obligation. “How about if I just… leave tomorrow morning and then come back in the early afternoon?”

Dr. Stewart just glared back at him, silent and expressionless.

“Its just that its my first week at my new job. I dont want to let them down.”

“Ill send them a note,” Dr. Stewart said firmly. “Going to work this week isnt going to do you any good. In your condition, you cannot afford to expend any excess energy. Frankly, I saved your life today. But youre not out of the woods. Not even close. Youre going to need constant medical attention for the next few days.”

Adam knew there was no longer a point in arguing, so he stayed quiet. Dr. Stewart wheeled him to his next appointment with Dr. Retke, who then wheeled him to his third appointment of the day, with Dr. Shaw. Dr. Shaw then wheeled him to a hospital bed where he was to spend the night. Immediately after he got in bed, a couple of doctors arrived on the scene.

Once again, Dr. Stewart silently inserted a needle into Adams left arm, and Adam noticed the blood IV once again. On the other side of the bed, Dr. Frank was strapping a blood pressure cuff around Adams right arm. Adam was annoyed that the doctors were doing to him whatever they pleased without asking for permission or even warning him.

Dr. Campbell then walked into the room. “Im going to test your blood sugar level,” he said, and Adam was grateful for this simple bit of communication. “I know you havent had enough time to test it yourself.” And with that, he pricked Adams right ring finger. “Looks like its time for dinner,” he said, after showing Adam the low number on the machine. “Ill come back after dinner to give you your insulin injection.”

“Your blood pressure is only 80/49,” Dr. Frank said in a discouraged tone, removing the cuff from Adams arm. “You really need to step up your efforts to raise it. If it continues to drop, we will have to lengthen your hospital stay and perform extensive tests.”

At this, Adams feeling of defeat intensified. I cant win. I cant fucking win. “Yes, Dr. Frank.”

Dr. Frank silently lifted Adams hospital gown to put a stethoscope against his chest. “Breathe in,” he commanded.

Dr. James then walked into the room, carrying a briefcase. Adam immediately felt fearful. Adam could tolerate most of his doctors and their rude behaviors and entitled attitudes. But Dr. James was the one doctor he truly loathed to see. Almost every time he got together with Dr. James, pain was involved. He didnt usually try to object to appointments, but he had gone through enough today and Dr. James was the last person he wanted to deal with, so he decided to speak up.

“How are you doing, Dr. James?” he volunteered. “Ill see you at our next appointment on Friday, right?”

“Yes, Ill see you then,” Dr. James replied. “But since youre here tonight anyway, I thought this would be a great opportunity for some additional testing that youve been needing anyway.”

Adam once again wanted to cry, but tried his best to act nonchalant.

Dr. James wheeled a machine over, sat down, and began taping electrodes to Adams right hand and arm. “Keep that arm still,” he said sharply when Adam shifted positions slightly. The doctor pressed a button on the machine, and an electric shock was sent through Adams arm that caused his hand to briefly convulse.

“Looks good so far. Now, to test the other limbs.” He carefully moved the electrodes to Adams left arm and sent another electric shock. Adam hated this sensation. He hated the jolt and he hated how it temporarily made him lose control of the limb. He hated, too, how badly his wrist fracture ached after the electricity had passed.

“Dr. James, that really hurts my fracture,” Adam managed. “I dont know if its a good idea to test my legs right now, because there are still several fractures in both of my feet.”

“It may cause pain, but it wont hurt the fractures,” the doctor replied. He stepped away for a moment and came back with a syringe, which he inserted into Adams arm without saying a word.

“What is that?” Adam asked, trying not to sound too fearful.

“Its a mixture of valium and codeine. This will help with the pain.”

Thanks for asking me if I wanted it, Adam thought bitterly, knowing from experience that this medication would affect his mental function for at least a day. “Its okay, you dont have to use the whole dosage,” Adam said quickly. “I can handle the pain.”

The request seemed fall on deaf ears. Dr. James kept injecting until the syringe was empty. He then proceeded to tape electrodes to Adams right leg, and once again sent an electric shock through the limb. Adam felt pain in his fractures, as expected, but it was indeed more manageable than it would have been without the medicine.

By the time Dr. James finished electrocuting Adams left leg, Adam was starting to have a very hard time focusing on anything. No doubt from the goddamn medicine, he thought to himself bitterly.

Dr. James then began injecting another syringe into Adams arm.

“Whats this?” Adam asked, feeling incredulous.

“Its vitamin B12. Youre going to need a lot of it. Probably several injections a day, for quite a while. Once your condition has improved, Ill show you how you can do it yourself at home.”

Cant wait, Adam thought bitterly.

“You didnt quite pass your nerve conduction test,” Dr. James said, sounding concerned but also vaguely excited. “The B12 should help with that. In a few minutes, after it has had a chance to penetrate your system, Im going to perform the tests again.”

Oh, fuck. “Yes, Dr. James,” Adam replied, his voice shaking. He was growing more and more tired and confused from the valium and codeine.

Adam felt so frustrated and defeated that, despite how hard he tried to resist, he could feel tears welling up in his eyes as Dr. James once again began taping electrodes to Adams right hand and arm. His hand convulsed with the electric shock, then the process was repeated on his left arm. Fortunately, his fracture didnt ache this time, thanks to the valium.

By the time Dr. James had finished testing Adams legs, Dr. Stewart was standing in the room, waiting for his turn with Adam. “He needs an iron injection,” he informed Dr. James.

“Ive still got to perform an EMG,” Dr. James protested as he removed the last electrode.

“This will only take a minute,” Dr. Stewart insisted. He stepped forward to Adams bed. “Turn on your side,” he instructed. Adam did so, and once again felt the alcohol swab and needle on his butt.

As Dr. Stewart left the room afterward, Dr. James pressed a button to shift Adams bed so that Adam was sitting upright. The doctor then proceeded to stick a small needle into Adams thigh, and another one into his calf. By this point, Adam was having a hard time staying awake. He drifted in and out of consciousness for the next 15 or so hours. Whenever he managed to wake up, his mind felt so cloudy that he couldnt focus on what was happening.

When Adam woke around 9:00 the next morning, his mind felt a lot clearer, but still not 100% back to its normal state. He started sitting up in bed, finding it very cumbersome because he was attached to several IVs and monitors.

“Oh, youre awake,” a voice said, startling Adam to the point that he jumped a bit. He turned and saw Dr. James sitting nearby.

“Sorry,” Dr. James chuckled. “Youve got a busy day ahead. Its good that youre awake. We ended up doing a few procedures and tests while you were asleep, but most procedures work out better when the patient is awake.”

Adam just looked at the doctor for a moment, trying to hide how violated he felt. “What did you do while I was asleep?”

“I redid the nerve conduction test to see if there were any improvements after your vitamin B12 injection. Unfortunately, there were no improvements. Were going to have to increase the dosage and frequency of the injections, and probably proceed with at least two nerve conduction tests each day until we start to see improvement.”

Before Adam could say anything, Dr. James opened his phone and paged several other doctors. “Yes, hes awake now. Im going to start him off with a couple of MRIs and other procedures and then you can work with him.”

“Ready for your MRIs?” Dr. James said, carefully removing the IVs from Adams arm.

“What MRIs?”

“We want to get some images of your brain and spinal cord. It should only take about an hour.”

“Yes, Dr. James,” Adam replied, knowing he didnt have a say in the matter.

After a short ride in the wheelchair, Adam was lying on the MRI table. Dr. James gently placed a pair of headphones over Adams ears. “You know how loud the machine can be,” he told Adam, “this will help block out the noise.” Then he placed a cloth over Adams eyes. “Keep as still as you can in there,” he said firmly as Adam was slid into the machine.

While lying in the machine, Adam realized how cloudy his mind still was; he was having a hard time focusing on anything. After about thirty minutes, he was slid out of the machine briefly and a needle was inserted into his arm. “Injecting some contrast material,” Dr. James stated loudly, to be heard through the headphones.

When Adam was back inside the machine, he shifted his arm a fraction of an inch. “Keep still,” Dr. James said sharply through a speaker. A few minutes later, without thinking, Adam turned his head just a little. “Keep still!” Dr. James said angrily through the speaker. “If you move, the images will be blurry and we will have to repeat the whole MRI.”

Adam tried his best to keep still, but after a few minutes, he shifted his head a little without thinking.

“Adam,” Dr. James said angrily through the speaker, “I asked you to keep still. If you cant do it on your own, we do have some straps that might help.”

Adam was incredulous. He had hardly moved at all. Fortunately, though, he was able to stay completely still for the remainder of the MRI, without having to be strapped down.


The next day, Adam was wheeled to Dr. Llewelyn, a urologist. Adam was used to having to see many different specialists, but this was his first time seeing a urologist, and he was nervous.

“Nice to meet you,” Dr. Llewelyn said, shaking Adams hand. “Dr. Shaw sent me a referral to treat you. Hes been examining your kidney function for a couple of years, now. Unfortunately, he has discovered that you have an incredibly rare condition.”

Adam just stared at Dr. Llewelyn, feeling his stomach drop.

“The good news,” Dr. Llewelyn continued, “is that we caught it early and it can be managed. Its going to take a lot of dedication on your part, though.”

“So…” Adam muttered nervously, “Whats going on?”

“Dr. Shaw mentioned some symptoms youve been having, including pain in your pelvic region, as well as fainting. Basically whats happening is that the signals from your brain to your urinary system are malfunctioning. Your brain is supposed to help guide the urinary tract in its process of producing and expelling urine. In your case, that message isnt being received by your urinary system, and the message is instead going to your heart, causing it to go into overdrive. Thats one of the reasons why youve been fainting; your heart starts beating too rapidly and your brain cant compensate, so you lose consciousness. So Dr. Frank and Dr. James will to have to help you manage this condition as well.”

Adam nodded. He was unfortunately used to getting strange new diagnoses all the time.

“In the mean time,” Dr. Llewelyn continued, “an unnatural amount of urine has been pooling in your bladder, never being expelled because the message cant get through from your brain. So Im here to help you with solutions for expelling urine properly. Heres the main thing youre going to do,” he said, taking out a bottle. “Youre going to use this cream. Youre going to apply it to your pelvic region as well as your genitals. Youre going to do this at least twice a day--but if youre able to do it more than that, the more the better. The cream stimulates the nerves in a way that will attract the necessary neurotransmitters to the area. So this should help improve your urination, and it may also even help reduce your heart symptoms.”

“Um… okay,” Adam muttered, feeling sheepish.

“Its critical that you keep up with the application of the cream,” Dr. Llewelyn said firmly. “We caught this condition just in time to start treating it--but if you forget to apply the cream even one time, you could have a major setback and your condition could deteriorate considerably. So I will be checking in with you twice a day to make sure youve applied the cream each time… and assuming you have, I will drop down to meeting with you just once a week. But if you forget to apply the cream even once, I will have to start doing it for you until youve firmly established the habit. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Dr. Llewelyn,” Adam muttered, avoiding eye contact.

“Good. Okay, Ill send you on your way, but Id like you to apply some cream first before you head out. The sooner you can get started, the better.” He handed Adam the bottle. Fortunately, he looked away as Adam applied the cream.

Next, Adam was wheeled to Dr. Frank, his cardiologist. “Lets get right down to business,” the doctor said. “Your condition is serious, but as long as youre consistent and dedicated to your treatment, you should be fine. Now, I assume Dr. Llewelyn already told you about the cream?”

“Yes, Dr. Frank,” Adam muttered.

“Good. Well, its a much more serious condition from a cardiology standpoint. The cream will help steer the neurotransmitters away from your heart, but that alone is not a strong enough treatment. From now on youre going to need an intracardiac injection once a day. This will help repel the neurotransmitters away from your heart.”

“What exactly is an intracardiac injection?” Adam asked nervously.

“Its an injection straight into the heart,” Dr. Frank said bluntly. “Its a very delicate procedure, so unlike your insulin shots, this is not something you can do on your own. This means that youll need to come to the hospital every day for the rest of your life so I or another doctor can give you an injection. It is crucial that you have this done every single day. If you miss even one day, the results could be disastrous.”

“Okay,” Adam managed, trying not to cry. He felt extremely discouraged.

“Hey, though, itll be fine,” Dr. Frank said, putting a sympathetic hand on Adams shoulder. “We can manage this. Really, as long as you diligently follow your treatment plan, youll be fine..”

Adam nodded, grateful for his ability to appear stoic in almost any situation.

Next was an appointment with Dr. James, his neurologist. Adam hadnt been walking as much as he would have liked, and he decided hed see if he was able to walk to his next appointment. He stood up from the wheelchair and briefly explained to Dr. Frank what he was doing.

“Well, you might as well try walking,” Dr. Frank agreed. “If youre going to improve your bone density, you cant stay in that wheelchair forever. Just be careful.”

“Yes, Dr. Frank,” Adam said, slowly taking one step and then another, his clunky boots clicking loudly against the floor.

Dr. Frank observed Adam as he took a few more steps and approached the doorway. “How are you holding up so far?” he called out. Before waiting for a response, he continued, “Ill follow you at least until youve made it to the elevator, just to make sure youre okay.”

“Thanks, Dr. Frank,” Adam said as he continued his slow trek. He was grateful that Dr. Frank wasnt being as strict or overprotective as many of his other doctors often were.

“Good luck,” Dr. Frank said as he watched Adam step into the elevator. With a half-grin on his face, Adam gave one brief wave of his hand to the doctor just before the elevator door shut.

A moment to myself, Adam thought as the elevator went up. Oh, how I miss privacy and solitude. He relished the silence for a moment, but then felt dread in his stomach when he remembered that he was about to see one of his least-favorite doctors.

“Good afternoon, Adam,” Dr. James said as Adam hobbled into the exam room. “Take a seat; you look like you need it.

“Im going to run a few tests while I talk to you about your new diagnosis,” Dr. James continued, gluing a few electrodes to Adams scalp and face. “I know that Dr. Llewelyn has told you about the cream and Dr. Frank has told you about the injections. Well, those things are crucial, but this is a neurological condition at its core, so a vigorous treatment protocol is in order.”

Dr. James turned away for a moment to a small device, which was attached to the electrodes on Adams face and scalp. “Tell me what happens when I press this button,” he said, pressing something on the small device.

Suddenly Adam had a vivid flashback. It was almost like he relived a day from first grade, in just a fraction of a second. “Wow,” he couldnt help but murmur. “I just remembered a day in first grade when I traded lunchboxes with another kid.”

“Interesting,” Dr. James seemed excited. “Okay, what about this one?” he said, pressing another button.

Adam saw a very clear visual image of a page from a book. It was a book he had studied several years ago when he was trying to learn French. He could see every word clearly on the page. He relayed this information to Dr. James, who seemed quite pleased.

“What about now?” Dr. James said, pressing yet another button.

Adams left hand suddenly curled up into a fist, completely involuntarily. He immediately felt intense pain in his fractured wrist. He tried hard to straighten out his hand, but the muscles were so contracted that they were rock-solid, his nails digging so deeply into his flesh that a drop of blood appeared. The pain in his fractured wrist got so intense that Adam started shaking his whole arm frantically, whimpering.

Dr. James released the button and Adams hand immediately went back to normal. He managed to stop whimpering, but his wrist was still throbbing so painfully that he felt tears come to his eyes.

Dr. James stood up and took Adams wrist, gently palpating the fracture area. “Sorry about that,” he said, and Adam was surprised that the doctor seemed genuinely apologetic. “Your right hand was supposed to contract,” Dr. James continued. “I must have placed the electrode on the wrong side of your head. Ill let Dr. DeYoung know about this immediately.”

He put Adams hand down and headed back to his seat. “Lets continue with the test,” he said. “Im pressing another button now.”

Adam almost collapsed at the sudden, intense pleasure he felt… and he was mortified when he realized hed just had an orgasm in front of his doctor.

Dr. James seemed oblivious to what was going on. He looked at Adam expectantly. “Well? What happened?”

“Uh…” Adam muttered, his face turning red. “I… remembered a really good day from my childhood,” he lied.

Dr. James looked confused. “Thats odd. I was expecting something different. Let me try that one again.”

“No!” Adam tried to interrupt, but it was too late; the button had been pressed and Adam once again felt a wave of pleasure wash over him, so intense that he involuntarily let out a quiet vocalization. As nice as the feeling was, he felt ashamed for having experienced it in the presence of someone by whom he felt so intimidated.

“What did you feel this time?” Dr. James asked, his eyes intense with curiosity.

Adams face once again reddened with embarrassment. “I… uh… um. It felt like I was tasting one of my favorite foods,” he said, lying once again.

Dr. James just glared at him with confusion for a moment. “Thats still not the reaction I was expecting,” he said, shrugging. “Ill have to try it again some other time. Anyway, lets get down to business and talk about your recently-diagnosed condition. Now, there are several possibilities for treatment. Were going to start you off with the the most conservative approach. If that works out, you may be able to avoid the more invasive approaches.”

Adam nodded, feeling an odd combination of relief and dread.

“I have three new prescriptions for you,” Dr. James continued. “Youll take one in the morning, one around lunchtime, and one in the evening. “Each of these medications affect different neurotransmitters in different ways. They work together in a synergistic way; thats why you cant take just one. Thats why you need to be consistent and never miss a dose.”

“Okay, Dr. James,” Adam said. That doesnt sounds so bad, he thought to himself. He was already taking about a dozen different medications each day, and taking pills was one of the easier things he had to do.

“In addition to the medication,” Dr. James said, “you will start wearing a device at all times.” He briefly turned to his desk to fetch something, which he then showed to Adam. “This monitor,” he said, pointing to a tiny screen, “will be attached to your head, monitoring your neurotransmitter levels and brain activity.” There was a long white cord coming out of the monitor, and at the other end of it was a large electrode. “This electrode,” Dr. James explained, will monitor the neurotransmitter levels in your pelvic region. If you start to reach unhealthy levels, an electric impulse will be sent to your brain through the monitor, and your brain will start to compensate for the problem. If this compensation fails, then your monitor will start beeping. If that happens, you need to get to the hospital right away. Do you understand?”

“I... think so,” Adam muttered, feeling overwhelmed.


A few weeks later, Adams mother was chauffeuring him to a friends birthday party.

“Think you can make it to the door all right?” she asked.

“Yeah, that shouldnt be a problem,” Adam said confidently as he opened the car door. “Thanks for the ride.”

As he stood up, his heart started racing and his vision started blacking out. He immediately sat back down in the car, then very slowly stood back up. He was simultaneously embarrassed and grateful that his mom watched him from the car to make sure he made it to the door without getting hurt.

“Yay! Adam came!” his old friend Kate shrieked when she opened the door for him. She gave him a quick but tight bearhug.

“Have a seat!” she said cheerfully, motioning to the couch. He sat down beside a couple of acquaintances. There were about a dozen party guests and he recognized most of them as old high school classmates.

“Hey, Monroe, hows it going?” asked Drake, the young man sitting next to Adam on the couch. Drake gave him a high-five. “Havent seen you in years, man.”

“Thats not true, we saw him at the Christmas party!” said Alicia, the girl on Drakes other side. “Good to see you again, Adam.”

“Good to see you guys again, too,” Adam said cheerfully.

Kate came back and handed Adam a plate of snacks. “Made sure not to give you too many carbs, because of your diabetes,” she said.

“Thanks,” Adam said before biting into a celery stick. He was grateful but also wondered if shed truly had to announce his condition in front of everyone.

“Oh, youre diabetic?” Leslie, the birthday girl, asked from across the room. “Shit, Im sorry. I should have ordered a sugar-free cake.” She looked embarrassed.

“Oh, no, its totally fine,” Adam insisted. “There are plenty of other things I can eat; I dont need any cake.”

Leslie returned to him a grateful grin.

There was a knock at the door, and the person who came in was Adams favorite old art teacher from high school, Mrs. Jefferson. Very down-to-earth, patient, and gentle, she was almost every students favorite teacher. She and Leslie must be really close, Adam thought, unable to imagine inviting a former teacher to his own party.

Mrs. Jefferson gave Leslie a hug, then chatted with each of her old students one by one and eventually got to Adam. “Theres Adam Monroe, one of the most talented students Ive ever had the privilege of working with,” she said with a gentle smile.

“How are you doing, Mrs. Jefferson?” Adam asked, shaking her hand.

“Same as always,” she replied lightly. “But lets talk about you. Is the rumor true? You got a big new job?”

“Its true,” Adam affirmed. “And its a great place to work.”

“I cant say Im surprised,” Mrs. Jefferson said. “I was always amazed with your work in class, and I knew youd get far with your career.”

Adam felt incredibly flattered but was also uncomfortable with all the attention he was getting. “I heard Reese Matthews is the CEO of a lucrative company,” he offered.

Just then, there was a thumping sound as a couple of dogs raced down the stairs into the room where the party was being held. “My boys!” Leslie laughed as the dogs got onto her lap and began licking her face. Then the dogs dispersed and started sniffing the feet of the guests, one by one.

“What project are you working on at your job?” Mrs. Jefferson asked, focusing her attention on Adam once again.

“Its a new project that hasnt been released yet,” Adam replied as one of the dogs, a golden retriever, started sniffing the cast on his right foot. “Unfortunately, Im not allowed to disclose the title, yet.”

“Whats it about? Or is that top secret, too?” Mrs. Jefferson laughed.

Just then, the golden retriever began to sniff between Adams legs. Adam tried shoving the dog away but found that he was too weak to do so. The dog didnt budge and just stuck his nose deeper into Adams pants. Adam started blushing in embarrassment and crossed his legs, hoping that would deter the dog.

“Um…” he began, hoping the dog would go away, “its about--”

Then the other dog, a small chihuahua mix, jumped onto Adams lap and also began sniffing his pants. Adam was able to push this small dog away, but the dog came right back and continued his sniffing. All the while, the big golden retriever was still invading Adams personal space.

“Off,” Mrs. Jefferson said sharply to the dogs who were violating her favorite old student, but the animals ignored her.

Since Adam couldnt seem to push the dogs away, he stood up, hoping he could just walk away from them. As usual, he felt very faint as soon he as he stood up, but he was too desperate to care. He began walking away from the couch. The dogs followed him, the golden retriever continuing to stick his nose uncomfortably close, the chihuahua jumping up repeatedly, attempting to get a whiff.

All the while, Adams heart was racing faster than hed ever felt it before, and his visual field was quickly continuing to black out; he could no longer see what was in front of him. His head throbbed so painfully it made him feel sick, and his nausea was rising. He knew he only had a fraction of a second left before he would pass out, so in desperation he sat down on the floor. The dogs immediately clobbered him, fighting against each other to get their noses between his legs.

“CHARLIE! TEDDY! GET OFF OF HIM!” Leslie screamed. Adam had never heard her raise her voice to such an extent. He realized then that every single party goer had their attention sharply focused on him. He felt mortified but was also relieved that hed at least managed to save himself from fainting.

Not only did the dogs not budge away from Adam, but they actually began to lick him. Not knowing what else to do, Adam rolled onto his stomach on the floor, so that the dogs would no longer have access to the area they were so interested in. The dogs continued clobbering him, however, trying hard to stick their noses under his legs.

Why me? Adam thought incredulously, wishing he could disappear from this humiliating situation. There are a dozen people here. Why did it have to be me? Why do I always have such shit luck?

“All right, ya big lug,” Drake said, picking up the golden retriever and carrying him away. Meanwhile, Leslie picked up the chihuahua. The dogs were relocated to another room, and after Leslie shut the door behind them, they began to bark in protest.

“Im so sorry,” Leslie said, kneeling by Adam who was still on the floor. “I dont know whats gotten into them. Theyve never acted like that before. Are you okay?”

“Im fine, thanks,” Adam muttered, raising himself up to a sitting position.

The room remained silent for a moment. Everyone felt mortified on Adams behalf and didnt know what to say. “Well!” Leslie said, standing up, “Im curious to see what all these presents are!”

Adam was very grateful for this distraction. He resumed his seat on the couch. His old friend Kate gave him a sympathetic glance, but other than that, no one acknowledged him or the embarrassing incident.

After Leslie had opened half of her gifts, Adams phone started vibrating. He saw that he was getting a call from Dr. Frank, his cardiologist. He badly wanted to ignore the call and just continue with the party, but he knew hed get in trouble if he didnt answer. He started to stand up so he could leave the room to answer the phone, but as usual, he felt overwhelmingly faint, so he sat back down.

“Are you okay?” Leslie asked, distracted from her gifts.

“Yes, I just have to take this call. Im sorry.” He opened his phone. “Hello?” he asked, hoping the party would resume and that they wouldnt all listen to his conversation.

“Adam,” Dr. Frank said, alarm in his voice. “You were supposed to be here half an hour ago for your intracardiac injection. Are you on your way?”

Adam felt a familiar sense of dread. He didnt know what to say. “Uh, well, I, uh, I have-- Im already-- I, uh--”

“I dont need to hear any excuses,” Dr. Frank finally interrupted. “Just head on over if youre not already on your way. Or--you know what? Ill just come to you. That would probably be faster. Are you at home?”

“No, you dont have to do that, Ill come to the hospital now,” Adam said quietly, realizing that the party goers were still listening to him.

“Where are you?” Dr. Frank persisted.

“Im at a party.” Adam then gave him the address, after Dr. Frank asked for it.

“This cant be put off any longer,” Dr. Frank said firmly. “Im on my way.” He hung up.

Adam blushed when he realized everyone was silently staring at him. “Uh… who brought the salad?” he asked, desperately wanting to get the attention away from him. “Its good.”

Kate raised her hand and smiled. “Its the same salad I made for the Christmas party. I remember how much you liked it so I decided to make it again.”

“Nice,” Adam said, smiling. “Thanks. So uh, Leslie, looks like you still have a few more presents.”

“Is someone coming over?” she asked, referencing Adams phone call, while she began opening the next gift.

Adam felt that enough attention had already been drawn to him during this party and he wanted no more of it. “Yeah, its nothing, I just gotta step outside for a few minutes. Sorry about that. You can keep opening your presents.”

Kate rushed over when she saw that Adam was starting to stand up again, and she offered her arm for support. Adam appreciated her concern, but he knew that a supportive arm would not be enough to prevent him from fainting. As usual, he immediately started to feel faint. He sat back down. “Just gotta remember to get up slowly,” he said quietly, hoping no one besides Kate would hear. Kate held out her hand and helped him very slowly get up. Adam realized that the party goers were once again silent, watching him. He blushed. Kate put an arm around him and slowly walked him to the front door.

“Whos coming over?” Kate asked as soon as they were outside. “Sit down,” she added before he could reply, motioning to a porch chair.

“Nah, Im fine,” Adam said, and he felt it was mostly true now that hed gotten past the initial lightheadedness. “And to answer your question, my cardiologist is coming.”

Kate followed as Adam very carefully stepped off the porch onto the lawn. Suddenly, Kate gave out a little shriek. “Your nose is bleeding! Ill be right back.” She ran back into the house and came out a moment later, handing Adam a napkin. The blood was flowing so swiftly that some of it had already gotten onto his shirt and his walking casts in that short time.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, holding the napkin to his his nose. Within about ten seconds, the napkin was completely soaked and the blood was dripping into his hands.

“Oh, shit!” Kate said. She ran back inside. Adam heard her say to the party guests, “His nose is bleeding like crazy!” She emerged shortly after with a stack of a dozen napkins.

Adam held the whole stack to his nose. The blood flow didnt seem to be letting up in the slightest and he realized that even a dozen napkins wouldnt last him long. He started to feel nauseous and his head began to pound painfully. He noticed from his peripheral vision that a couple of the partygoers were watching him through the screen door.

Leslie rushed outside a moment later and handed Adam a bath towel. “Thanks, but I dont want to ruin your towel,” Adam muttered, finding it difficult to gather up the energy to even speak.

“Who gives a crap,” Leslie said, shoving it into his hand. “This is serious. And those napkins are already soaked.” Adam looked down and saw that she was right; so much blood had dripped onto his hands that it was now getting on his forearms. He begrudgingly held the crisp white towel to his nose, watching the blood immediately saturate it. His headache was rapidly worsening and his heart seemed to keep beating faster and faster. He suddenly felt intensely nauseous.

“Youd better sit down, Adam,” Kate said, sounding deeply concerned. She held out her arm to help him. Just after Adam made it safely to the grass, he was startled to see Leslie drop to the ground, unconscious.

Kate shrieked again. “Whats going on! I cant handle all this!” She sounded ready to cry. The rest of the party guests, whod been watching from the door, rushed outside then. Most of them gathered around Leslie. Adam was concerned for her, but at the same time he couldnt help but feel relief that the attention was no longer on him.

“Oh, dear,” Leslies mother muttered as she looked down at her daughter, then at Adam, then back at Leslie. “She gets a little queasy when she sees blood.”

Leslie opened her eyes then and was a little disoriented for the next few minutes, but gradually gathered her bearings. “Lets get you back inside, away from this crime scene,” Leslies mother said authoritatively, escorting her daughter back into the house.

“Is he gonna be okay?” Adam heard Leslie ask her mother before they disappeared inside.

Although Adam was sitting down, his headache, nausea, and rapid heartbeat were only getting worse. The nosebleed was still going strong; half the towel was now soaked.

“Should we call 911?” Drake asked.

“I dont know,” Kate sobbed. “His doctor is on the way so maybe we dont need to.”

Mercifully, Dr. Frank pulled into the driveway just a few minutes later. By that point, the towel was 75% soaked with blood, and quite a bit of blood had also spilled onto the grass where he was sitting. It was all over his clothes. Adams headache was so bad that it took all he had not to groan in pain, and he was constantly fighting the urge to vomit.

“Adam!” Dr. Frank sounded quite alarmed. “Good god, what has happened?”

Adam tried to reply but nothing came out. He felt too weak to use his vocal cords. He was lying on the grass now, surprised he hadnt lost consciousness yet.

Kate tearfully explained to the doctor what was going on and how the bleeding wouldnt stop.

The doctor responded to Kate, but Adam was no longer processing the words. The pain in his head was reaching a climax and his visual field was rapidly blacking out.

(To be continued.)

Review This Story || Author: rixile
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