Heartwrenching

Trying vainly to hail a cab on the busy street, Shane wondered whether the subway would have been quicker during the lunch-hour rush. The doctors wouldn’t wait for him if he was late.

He spotted a taxi pulling up on the opposite side of the road and raised his arm to get the driver’s attention. “Hey!” he shouted, stepping into the street, crossing purposefully. It wasn’t until he heard the screech of tyres he realised he hadn’t noticed the car heading straight for him. Shane’s hands hit the hood of the vehicle as it stopped, just in time.

“Oh my god!” the man in the car unbuckled his seat belt and made to open the driver’s side door.

“I’m so sorry!” called Shane. “I wasn’t looking. It was my fault. I’m sorry – I’m rushing, I have to get that cab.” He pointed to the parked taxi, then sprinted the last few steps across the road. His heart sank as he realised another pedestrian was already in negotiations with the driver about her fare. God, this day was turning into a nightmare, and that was saying something considering the last few months.

As Shane was about to start looking for another cab, he overheard the taxi driver. “This time of day, you won’t find anyone willing to take you to St Duke’s for less than twenty, love.”

“Excuse me?” Shane approached the woman, delighted for a stroke of luck. “Are you going to St Duke’s Hospital? Do you want to split the cab?”

The woman didn’t seem too happy about it, but she nodded towards the driver and got into the backseat, hardly leaving enough time for Shane to clamber in after her before she reached across him and slammed the door, hard. Shane rolled his eyes. No one heading to St Duke’s was in a great mood, but he had just saved her a tenner.

The neurological hospital was known for lost causes. Shane hadn’t heard of it until four months ago, when his fiancée, Anna, had collapsed in the street after suffering a brain haemorrhage. St Duke’s was recommended to him after his local hospital said there was nothing more they could do. It hadn’t been easy – least of all convincing Anna’s parents, technically next of kin until the wedding next Spring, that they shouldn’t turn off life support for the love of his life, all because he knew in his heart, and was telling Anna every day from her bedside, that their story wasn’t over yet. And his patience had been rewarded. The doctors had suggested a ‘miracle drug’, and they were administering it today. Shane felt his throat constrict as he imagined her eyes opening, after all this time. The catch? If the drug didn’t wake her up, it was likely to be too much for her heart to take.

Lost in his own thoughts, Shane couldn’t remember the rest of the car journey, or even paying the driver and entering the hospital building. He found himself in the stairwell, behind two doctors that were taking the stairs two at a time.

“This was inevitable” the older of the two was saying to the other. “She’s been on borrowed time since she was transferred here. The boyfriend pushed for this new drug, but it was always going to be too much strain on her heart.”

A flicker of panic shot across Shane’s chest as he followed behind them. It couldn’t be…

But any doubts he had were stolen as he walked across the familiar ward towards Anna’s cubicle. Through the glass partition he could see Anna, lying in bed surrounded by doctors, a defibrillator being held above her chest. Feeling his knees buckle, he turned back towards the stairwell and let himself sink to the floor. There, on hands and knees, he let out a cry like a wounded animal, listening to the indistinct voices call “Clear!” as they failed to bring Anna back to life.

“Shane?”

He would have recognised her voice anywhere, despite not hearing it for four months. But… how?

Shane got to his feet and stepped towards his fiancée. “What… how?”

“Hey stranger” she laughed, and the sound was like music to his ears as she reached forward to embrace him. Shane shook his head, wondering if he was losing his mind. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t focus enough to work out what it was.

The stairwell door swung open again, and two nurses came in. Shane recognised them from the ward, Laura and Izzy. Shane waited for them to notice Anna; to say something to him. Instead, they ignored them entirely, sat down on the landing and unwrapped their lunch.

“Busy morning?” Izzy took a bite out of her hamburger and offered Laura some fries.

“Nah” Laura shook her head in reply, taking a couple of fries hungrily. “The only new patient ended up being DOA.” Shane recognised the acronym for Dead on Arrival.

“Oh yeah?” Izzy asked. “What happened?”

“Some guy stepped in front of a car.” Laura shrugged. “It happens.”

Shane looked up at the two nurses. A creeping sensation was coursing through his body. “Anna?” he turned to look at his fiancée, who smiled sadly at him and nodded. “Looks like you were right” she said softly. “Our story isn’t over yet.”

Before he could respond, the look on Anna’s face changed from sadness to confusion. She lifted a hand and touched her chest, her eyes widening in fear as while he watched, her image started moving out of focus. “I’m sorry Shane, I’m so so sorry.”

“What? What’s going on?” Shane spun around, looking for where she had been standing just seconds before. He rushed back to her bedside, just in time to see the doctors sigh with relief at the close call– they had restarted Anna’s heart. As Shane watched, her eyelids flickered once, then opened.

“Anna?” Shane asked, reaching for her hand.

But Anna looked right through him. She was alive.

 

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