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This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2015 by Steven Wells.
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Sam and Chris
"I think Donny would be devastated if he were pulled out of this class now," I cautioned.
"I agree with you," Ms. Gather replied. "In the future, he may want more challenging subject matter than some of the rest of his class members. And, he seems to be extremely creative. I've heard him talk to some of his friends about having a discussion with one of your dogs."
Chris and I smiled at each other. I tried to explain Donny's discussions with Simon, "Let me explain something about Donny you may not know. Chris and I were walking our three Border Collies one morning. Simon, the oldest dog, led us into the bushes where we found Donny wrapped in a blanket. His mother went in search of food. His mother didn't come back. After Donny came to live with Chris and me, he and Simon bonded. They are almost inseparable. In a way, Chris and I believe the two do share some form of communication. I know it sounds weird. At first, we thought he was making up his conversations with Simon. However, we are believers at this point."
"I wouldn't say it is weird," Ms. Gather explained. "But, I still think Donny is a very creative four-year-old boy."
"Where does all of this lead us?" I asked.
"We need to consider activities which will engage Donny while some of the other students work with the regular material," Ms. Gather suggested. "I wanted you to know you have a very creative boy. He will need challenging material to keep him occupied. It will be easy in our class because it is small, and I have an assistant. When he goes into higher grades, he may need gifted classes."
"You are warning us we will face new challenges in the future," Chris added with a smile.
"Yes," Ms. Gather replied. "How do you feel about testing?"
"I would rather wait until it is a necessary tool for Donny's development," I suggested.
"I agree," Chris said.
"Okay," Ms. Gather replied. "Why don't we join the others in the class?"
"Sure," I agreed as Ms. Gather led us into the room.
Chapter 61: Crisis Management 101
Chris and I had the kids in bed, the dogs were resting, and we were having a few quiet moments together.
"Friday nights are not like when we first met, are they, Sam?" Chris asked.
"Nope," I replied as I snuggled closer to him. "I cannot imagine going backwards in time and being as happy as I am now."
"You won't get an argument from me," Chris continued.
"What do you think you want to do with the house in Florida?" I asked.
"I am leaning toward selling it," Chris replied. "I don't foresee us using it much."
"What if we put in just enough money to make it rentable?" I asked.
"Do you really want to be in the rental business?" Chris asked.
"You hire someone to do it," I replied.
"We can make the decision after we talk with the contractors," Chris said. "I will miss the house, but we need to be practical."
"And," I explained. "We could lose the whole thing in a hurricane. It's on the beach. It's in a flood zone. We could also rent a lot of hotel rooms for the $2 million estimate for the land."
"Maybe we should turn it into a B&B," Chris suggested.
"I can see the neighbors now," I began to explain. "NOT IN OUR BACKYARD! I doubt you could get a zoning change to allow you to run a B&B out of the house. Plus, you have a whole new set of building codes to deal with."
"Maybe we just won't tell them," Chris said with a smile across his face.
"Chris," I continued. "We are talking ocean front land in Palm Beach. There is no way you could open a B&B without telling anyone."
"What about AIRBNB?" Chris asked.
"I don't think I want to bail you out of jail," I replied.
"We will skip the B&B idea for now," Chris responded. "Can we buy a jet?"
"Chris," I said firmly as I smiled at my husband. "No jets, no twins, no dogs, no B&Bs."
"Spoil sport," Chris whined.
"Do you think Donny was over-tired the last few days?" I asked.
"He seemed to slow down in the evening," Chris added. "He wasn't his usual bubbly self. Why? Do you think he isn't feeling well?"
"I think he would let us know if he wasn't well," I replied. "At least, I hope so."
Just as soon as the words were out of my mouth we heard barking coming from upstairs. Before we reached the stairway, Lincoln and Roosevelt were at the top of the stairs. When they saw we were practically running up the stairs they bolted toward Donny's room. Donny's breathing was heavy. His PJs were soaked with sweat.
I felt Donny's forehead. "He has a temperature, Chris!"
"What do we do?" Chris asked. "Take him to the ER, call 9-1-1, or wait until morning?"
"He seems to be breathing heavily, too," I added.
Chris grabbed the digital thermometer for the first aid kit. When the thermometer beeped, Chris looked panicked.
"He has a temperature of 101 degrees," Chris said.
"I'll call Sawyer and Glen to watch Mathew and Joshua," I said. "In the meantime, we need to call 9-1-1."
I grabbed a face cloth from Donny's bathroom and ran cold water over it. I was putting the wet face cloth on Donny's forehead when Chris returned to the room. He was talking to the 9-1-1 operator with the speaker on, "His breathing is heavy... His pajamas are soaked with sweat... He has a temperature of 101 degrees."
"Did he show any signs of breathing difficulties earlier in the day?" the operator asked.
"No," Chris responded. "He seemed to be a little less energetic today, though."
"The EMTs are on their way," the operator explained. "Does he have a history of breathing difficulties?"
"None that we know of," Chris replied. "We adopted him when he was three. He is HIV positive, however."
"Okay," the operator responded. "Apply a cold compress on his forehead. The EMTs are about 10 minutes from your location."
I grabbed my phone and called Sawyer and Glen, "Sawyer!"
"What's happening, Sam? You sound panicked," Sawyer responded.
"We called the EMTs," I explained. "Donny is breathing heavily and he has a temperature. Could you and Glen watch Mathew and Joshua?"
"We are on our way," Sawyer said as he ended the call.
"Glen and Sawyer are on their way over," I said.
Sawyer and Glen arrived at the same time as the EMTs.
Chris and I sat in Donny's room on Saturday afternoon. He had undergone several tests in order to determine the cause of his fever, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and night sweats. We were waiting for Dr. Graham to arrive to tell us his thoughts on Donny's sudden illness. Chris and I had taken turns going back to the house to help Sawyer and Glen as they supervised Mathew and Joshua.
"I think we need to do something for Sawyer and Glen after all of this is behind us," I suggested to Chris.
"They seem to be naturals at taking care of Mathew and Joshua," Chris said with a smile. "Good practice for them in case they have kids later on."
"Gentlemen!" Dr. Graham said as he stepped into the room. He was followed by another person. "Sam and Chris, this is Dr. Robison. He recently joined the staff here at Carle Hospital. His specialty is pediatrics. He has supervised the effort to diagnose Donny's health issue. We also just finished a conference call with Dr. Raj, Donny's infectious disease doctor. Why don't we step outside into the hallway?"
"Please tell us some good news," I said as we were ushered out into the hallway.
"We feel after the tests and the symptoms Donny has Pneumocystis pneumonia or PCP. The good news is Donny will recover fully after a regimen of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, which is Bactrim. We will also add a corticosteroid like prednisone. He should be on this for about three weeks," Dr. Graham explained. "And, after the infection has cleared, Donny will need to take lower doses once a day to prevent it from returning. Donny's CD4 count has fallen below 200 for some reason. We will decide how to adjust his medication to get it to a higher level."
"Can Donny go back to school right away?" I asked.
"We will know more about the timeframe for returning to school once we observe Donny and the treatment," Dr. Graham replied. "But, I suspect he will be out of school for the next week."
"How serious could this have been?" Chris asked.
"You did the right thing by getting Donny to the hospital as quickly as possible," Dr. Graham replied. "Anytime there is a breathing issue with an HIV-positive person, especially a child, we consider it serious. If treatment had been delayed, Donny could have suffered brain damage."
"Oh shit!" Chris muttered. "Sorry."
"We will work on getting his PCP condition stabilized," Dr. Graham continued. "Once we have the PCP stabilized and his CD4 counts higher, we can discontinue the prophylactic treatment for PCP."
"Any questions so far?" Dr. Graham asked.
"Since Donny has had this opportunistic infection, will he be more susceptible to others?" I asked.
"Once we get this PCP under control, we will have better guidance for other opportunistic infections," Dr. Graham replied. "However, our goal is to get his CD4 count up. Once his CD4 count is at a more appropriate level, he will have fewer chances of other infections."
"When can Donny go home?" I asked.
"Probably tomorrow," Dr. Graham replied. "We need to observe him and his tolerance of his new medications."
"He will not be a happy camper!" Chris said quietly. "He needs to be surrounded by five Border Collies and his twin brothers... So, expect resistance."
"One of us can stay with him, right?" I asked.
"Yes," Dr. Graham replied. "But, we will give him something to make him sleep. He probably will not know whether one of you is here or not."
"One of us will be here, Dr. Graham," I added. "The staff would have one terrified four-year-old boy on your hands if he did wake up."
"I suspect you may be correct," Dr. Graham replied with a smile. "Now, I will leave you alone with your son so you can explain his situation."
"If you hear screaming, you will know we have not been successful," Chris replied.
As we stepped inside, we saw Henry, Donny's nurse, had kept Donny entertained.
"Daddy!" Donny exclaimed. "Henry told me about his doggy, Leo. Leo is Simon's age."
"Once you are released, maybe Simon and Leo can get together and play," I suggested.
"Okay," Donny replied. "When are we going home, Daddy?"
"Probably tomorrow," Chris explained. "The doctors want to make sure you are getting better."
Donny's smile turned into a frown.
"But, Daddy," Donny began. "I want to go home. I want to play with the doggies. I want to talk to my brothers."
"You will have plenty of time to play with the doggies and talk to your brothers once we get home, okay?" I asked.
"What if your daddies brought one of the dogs to the hospital?" Henry began. "You can play with him in one of the rooms off the lobby."
"Maybe," Donny replied. He still did not look happy. "Can my brothers visit, too?"
"Probably not a good idea, Donny," Henry continued. "Little brothers as young as they are shouldn't be around people who aren't feeling well."
"I want to see them," Donny said. He was on the verge of a meltdown.
"What if you were to talk to them over the computer?" Chris asked. "You could see them and they could see you."
"Nope," Donny replied. The meltdown fast approached.
"You wouldn't want Mathew and Joshua to get sick, would you?" I asked.
"No," Donny replied. "But, I want to see them."
"Donny," Chris said firmly. "We believe it is not a good idea to bring Mathew and Joshua here to the hospital to visit you. You can talk with them via the computer or you can wait until tomorrow. Those are the only two options."
"I don't like those two options," Donny replied.
"You will be around them all next week," I added. "The doctors don't want you to go to school until the following week. So, you will have plenty of time to be with them."
"Can Simon stay the night?" Donny asked.
"He will need to leave after visiting hours are over," Henry explained.
"Can I have ice cream?" Donny asked.
Chris and I looked at one another and smiled. We might be winning the battle.
"Yes," I replied. "You can have ice cream."
"And Simon can visit?" Donny asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"Will you stay with me tonight?" Donny asked me.
"Yes," I replied again.
"Okay," Donny said.
Chris arrived at Donny's hospital room around 9 am on Sunday morning.
"How did things go last night?" Chris asked as he gave me a kiss on my cheek.
"Fine," I replied. "The chair is remarkably comfortable. How were things at home?"
"The usual chaos," Chris replied. "Mathew and Joshua woke me up around 6 am. They needed changing AND feeding. Simon was a basket case all night. He kept sitting outside Donny's room and whimpering until I managed to get him on our bed for the night. He stationed himself outside Donny's room as I left. He is a very unhappy dog."
"Poor thing," I said. "I don't think Donny and Simon have spent a night apart since Donny began living with us."
"Any word from the doctors this morning?" Chris asked.
"Not yet," I replied. "Donny slept most of the night. He did wake up briefly for a few minutes. He panicked when Simon wasn't sleeping with him. But, I got him to settle down and go back to sleep after about 30 minutes. The nurse was just in to check on his IV and vital signs. He woke up briefly and then fell back to sleep once the nurse left."
"I can only hope Donny goes home today," Chris explained. "We barely squeaked by a meltdown yesterday. I don't believe we will win another battle."
"Probably not," I replied
"Good morning," Dr. Robison said as he bounded into the room. "How is our patient today?"
"Mostly asleep," I explained.
"From my preliminary look as Donny's chart, he should be released later today," Dr. Robison continued. "Let me examine him and order some additional tests."
Chris and I stood in the corner of Donny's room while Dr. Robison examined Donny.
"Sawyer and Glen arrived about 20 minutes ago," Chris explained. "They seemed rested and ready for another round of Mathew and Joshua duty."
"We will need to do something special for them after all of this is in the past," I added.
"The twins like them," Chris continued. "Of course, anyone who pays attention to them and feeds them will be friends of theirs forever."
Dr. Robison finished his examination and turned his attention to us. "Donny appears to be breathing well on his own this morning. And, after another set of blood tests and an x-ray, he should be all set to be released. I am, as a precautionary measure, ordering emergency oxygen equipment for you to take home with you. If Donny has another episode of breathing problems, I urge you to put Donny on oxygen until the paramedics arrive. Any questions?"
"What are the chances Donny will have another episode of breathing problems?" I asked.
"I can't give you a precise number on the probability of a relapse," Dr. Robison replied. "However, every day without problems his chances of a relapse are reduced. I would encourage you to have the oxygen with you in case he has another episode—at least until his CD4 count increases."
Chris and I waited calmly. First, the person arrived to extract blood from Donny's arm. Then, we accompanied Donny to the x-ray department. Finally, Dr. Robison and Dr. Graham arrived.
Dr. Graham addressed Donny, "Donny, are you ready to go home?"
"YES!" Donny replied.
"Good," Dr. Graham continued. "Once you get dressed and your daddies sign some papers, you are good to go."
"What do you say to Dr. Graham and Dr. Robison, Donny?" Chris asked.
"Thank you, Dr. Graham and Dr. Robison," Donny replied.
"You are welcome, Donny," Dr. Robison replied. "Donny will be somewhat tired until we stop the medication."
"I will want to see Donny at the end of next week," Dr. Graham continued. "And, please call my emergency number on this card if you feel Donny's condition is worsening. Also, keep the emergency oxygen within easy reach at all times."
"Thank you Dr. Graham, Dr. Robison," I said. "We—Chris, Donny, Mathew, Joshua, the dogs, and I—greatly appreciate all of your help. We would be devastated if things had turned out differently. I haven't given much thought to religion in my life, but last night I did some serious praying. I prayed to God to guide you and your medical team and spare Donny. I think what I am trying to say is I, all of a sudden, have a different outlook on this whole religion business. Thank you!"
"I was in your shoes about religion when I was in college," Dr. Graham replied. "But, once I became a pediatric resident, my ideas changed. You don't know how many times I have asked for God's help with some of my patients. It is very, very hard when you see kids who are sick and struggling to live. I had a rotation as a resident in pediatric oncology. It was the hardest job in my entire life. I learned to pray there... Now, I believe you have a son who is ready to go home!"
"I'll get the car," Chris said to the group. "I will meet you at the front door."
Chris disappeared. Henry, Donny's day nurse, strapped Donny into a wheel chair and we made our way downstairs. When the elevator door opened, we saw Sawyer, Glen, Mathew, Joshua, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Simon, Winthrop, and Wallaby eagerly waiting for Donny. Five seconds later, Donny was on the floor of the lobby getting licks from five very excited dogs.
Chris and I went to the gym with our gym group on Tuesday after Donny's hospitalization. We also had lunch at the pasta joint.
"Where is Harrison this morning?" I asked.
"He wasn't feeling well," Tom replied. "So, he decided to sleep in."
"I hope he feels better soon," Chris added. "After our experience with Donny's hospital stay this weekend, Sam and I have great empathy for people who don't feel well."
"How is Donny?" Sawyer asked.
"His energy is returning," I replied. "So, we are assuming he is on the road to recovery. He was complaining about not going to school this morning."
"How is Simon now Donny is home?" Glen asked.
"He hasn't left Donny's side except to go outside," Chris explained.
"I suspect we would have needed to take Simon to the vet if Donny hadn't come home on Sunday," Glen continued. "He sat outside Donny's bedroom door for most of the time Donny was in the hospital."
"They are very attached to one another," I continued. "Simon is our emergency alarm system where Donny is concerned."
"I remember the reporter from CNN after Donny's birth father was apprehended by Simon at the condo's back door," Sawyer explained with a smile. "I still believe Simon should be given an award for his bravery."
"The five dogs are an amazing team," I said. "Even Winthrop and Wallaby have become an integral part of our lives. They know practically everything going on with Mathew and Joshua—even before we do at times. A few times, they informed us Mathew and Joshua needed changing."
"Maybe I should get Harrison a dog," Tom sighed. "Maybe the dog would get Harrison's mind off the bottle."
"What do you mean, Tom?" Sawyer asked.
"He is sucking down way too much vodka," Tom explained. "He tied one on last night. He wouldn't listen to me when I asked him to stop. He has been getting belligerent when he drinks. You probably heard us arguing last night. And, he's probably already hit the vodka bottle this morning after I left."
"We were sound asleep around 11 last night," Sawyer explained. "So, no, we didn't hear anything. Besides, what brought all of this on? I've never known Harrison to get wasted."
"I don't know," Tom replied. "I try to have conversations with him while he is sober, but he just shuts down. He was always so happy. Nothing seemed to get in his way of living life to the fullest. Now, it's just the opposite. I don't know how much more of this I can take. We used to share everything. When I was down, Harrison would drag me right back up. I would do the same with him."
"Sometimes there is a physical cause for depression," Chris suggested. "Has he had a physical recently?"
"About a year ago," Tom explained. "Neither one of us is prone to go to a doctor because we usually just shrug off a cold or some other ailment."
"Have you talked to his parents about this?" Glen asked.
"I'm thinking about speaking to his brother," Tom admitted. "His parents wouldn't deal well with him having a mental illness. There is sort of a family curse involved with mental issues."
"I wouldn't let his parents sweep his condition under the rug if there is a family history of mental health issues," Glen continued. "It could be serious. He's not suicidal, is he?"
"Harrison is not the type who would try to commit suicide by normal measures—overdose, guns, rope," Tom said sadly. "He's too much of a coward. But, I suppose this behavior could be suicide by alcohol. I would go nuts myself if something bad happened to him."
"This would probably be the blind leading the blind, but could one of us talk to him?" Glen asked.
"Jeffery Harris-LeBlanc," I said as I was thinking outloud.
"What about him?" Tom asked.
"He's seen it all, Tom," I explained. "I suspect he might be able to help. Even if it is recommending someone else to talk this over with you."
"Thanks for suggesting him," Tom replied. "I am going to speak to Harrison's brother first. I hope we can work this out because I don't know what I would do without Harrison in my life."
It was time for the group to split up. After we stashed our trash from lunch, we headed out. Chris and I were heading home to give Mrs. Graham a break.
"I feel bad about Harrison," I said to Chris as we were walking home.
"I think there might be more to Harrison's story than even Tom knows," Chris replied.
"Do you have any skeletons in your closet I need to be aware of, Chris?" I asked with a smile.
"Other than I am madly in love with you, Donny, Mathew, Joshua, and five border collies, no," Chris replied. "You?"
"I told you my grandfather shot himself after my grandmother died," I replied. "And, my father found him dead in the barn."
"Yea," Chris replied. "You are not planning an exit like his, are you?"
"Nope," I replied. "I'm with you. I am in love with you and our family. I am not going anywhere like my grandfather without a fight."
"I'm happy to hear your intentions are to remain with me for as long as possible," Chris replied. "Do you have any relatives who were less than stellar citizens?"
"I don't think so," I replied. "But, my father did suggest we not ask a lot of questions about the history of our family—especially on his side. Apparently, there were some people who were a little on the outside of normalcy."
"You should ask my grandmother about her great aunt Gertrude," Chris added. "I can't remember the entire story, but her life had a lot of color to it—and I don't mean color of her skin."
"Got it," I said as we arrived at the house.
We had stepped inside for all of two seconds before five dogs and Donny surrounded us.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Donny exclaimed as he slid to a stop in front of us. "Mrs. Graham and I have been making cookies!"
"What kind?" I asked as I picked Donny up.
"Peanut butter!" Donny again exclaimed. "She said we can't have any until you come home. Can we have some now?"
"I think we can manage some milk and cookies," I replied. "Don't you think, Chris?"
"Sure," Chris said. He looked at the five dogs circling at our feet. "Why is it I think there might be more at stake here than milk and cookies? Donny?"
"Ahm," Donny began. "The doggies found a cat in the back yard. The cat was hurt. It limped. Mrs. Graham help us get the cat in a box. It was hungry, so we gave it milk to drink."
"Okay," Chris continued. "Do you know where this cat belongs?"
"No," Donny replied. "It didn't have a collar or anything. It looks little and scared. It's in the garage."
"What would you like us to do with the cat, Donny?" I asked.
"Take it to the doctor so it can get better," Donny explained.
The dogs were now quietly sitting at our feet. They watched the conversation go from Donny to me to Donny back to me and finally Donny.
"Let's have our milk and cookies and we can discuss the cat's future," Chris suggested.
We continued into the kitchen where Mrs. Graham was putting out glasses of milk and a plate of cookies.
"The dogs were going nuts in the back yard," Mrs. Graham continued to explained. "When Donny and I went outside to see what the commotion was, we noticed the cat. The dogs were pushing him toward the back patio. The cat was shaking as though he might be either cold or totally frightened by five dogs hovering over him. I put the cat in the garage with some milk and waited until you were home. I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not," I replied. "What else could you do with a stray cat? It is a stray cat?"
"Yes," Mrs. Graham replied. "It looked frightened and hungry. I just couldn't leave it in the yard to starve."
"Of course not, Mrs. Graham," Chris replied. "You did the right thing. Now, we need to find out what we are going to do with a cat."
As we sat and ate our milk and cookies, we continued to debate the cat's future. "We could take the cat to Jason at the vet's office," I suggested. "Hopefully he will know what to do with a stray cat."
"If it doesn't have a home, can we keep it?" Donny asked.
Chris and I looked at one another.
"If the cat is healthy and we cannot find its owner, we can consider keeping it," I began. "However, we don't know yet. We are not promising anything, especially if we can find the people to whom the cat belongs."
After we had ingested several cookies, I found my phone and called the vet's office.
"Hello, Sylvia," I said as the receptionist answered. "This is Sam Williamson. It seems our dogs found what we believe might be a stray cat in our back yard. Mrs. Graham, who watches the boys while we are in school, got the cat into a box and into our garage. She also fed it some milk. We were wondering if Jason would have time to examine the cat to make certain it is healthy and hopefully help locate its owners."
"Of course," Sylvia replied. "Jason has an opening in about 1 hour. Could you bring the cat here by then?"
"We'll be there in one hour," I replied.
To be continued...
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John's Journey Forward in the `Beginnings' section
Jeffery Comes Home in the `Beginnings' section
Life With Tim in the authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
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