“Honey, I’m home,” Meaghan called out as she entered the apartment Thursday afternoon. She’d been in New York for a conference for a few days and was eager to see Bryan again. She knew he wasn’t on duty, he’d sent her a text a couple of days earlier her that he’d managed to get the weekend off, including Thursday and Friday, so she was looking forward to spending a long weekend with her boyfriend. Their plans for the weekend included getting his sports equipment ready for sale. Josh had promised to come over and help with that. Meaghan was slightly surprised when he didn’t respond, her initial thought was that he was out, but she spotted his keys and wallet on the dresser in the hallway and the bag he usually had on the back of his wheelchair when he went out was on the floor next to the dresser. Suddenly Meaghan was worried; it wasn’t like Bryan to just ignore her. She grabbed her bags and after checking that he wasn’t in the kitchen or living room she headed to the bedroom. Bryan was there; in bed and his nightstand was cluttered with bottles of cough medicine, some painkillers, a box of Kleenex and a water bottle. The wastebasket by the bed was filled with used tissues. Judging from how his bangs were sticking to his forehead he had a fever.
Meaghan dumped her bag outside the closet and headed into the bathroom where she grabbed a clean washcloth from the cabinet in the corner and soaked it in cold water. She wrung it out and brought it back to the bedroom with her. Bryan barely stirred when she sat down on the side of the bed and gently wiped his bangs back so she could place the cool, damp washcloth on his forehead.
“Feels good…” he mumbled. A few moments later his eyes fluttered open. “Megs?”
“Hey babe, I take it you’re not feeling too well?”
“Damn flu. I’ve been feeling a bit off for a few days, so I’ve kept patient interactions down to an absolute minimum. Yesterday it just came out in full bloom right after lunch. My fever spiked and I had to leave work early. I’ve barely left bed since I got home yesterday.”
“Anything I can do for you? Since you’re the doctor I’ll leave the medical decisions up to you.”
“I think I need a shower and a change of clothes. Would you mind changing the sheets while I’m in the bathroom? They feel pretty disgusting and I don’t have the energy to deal with it right now.”
“Sure. Are you hungry? I haven’t eaten since breakfast and could use some food. I could make some soup for us.”
“I should probably eat something, but my throat is sore.”
“I’m sure you can manage to swallow some tomato soup? Not eating isn’t going to help you feel better sooner.”
“I thought you were going to leave the medical decisions up to me,” Bryan said with a small laugh as he pulled the covers back and lifted his legs off the bed. Laughing caused him to start coughing a bit, but it subsided quickly and he transferred to his wheelchair and headed into the bathroom. As soon as the door closed behind him Meaghan started changing the sheets on the bed.
Meaghan had just finished fluffing the final pillow when Bryan called her name from the bathroom. She peeked
inside; he was still sitting on the bench in the shower.
“Can you bring me a change of underwear and some sleepwear? I completely forgot.” He looked slightly embarrassed.
“Sure.” Meaghan shut the door and retrieved clean boxers, a soft t-shirt and a pair of flannel pajama pants from the dresser and brought it into the bathroom where she placed it on the counter by the sink.
“Anything else I can get you?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks Megs.”
“That’s what girlfriends are for. I’ll get started on some food. Are you okay with eating in the kitchen, or do you want me to bring you food in bed?”
“Let me get dressed and I’ll see how I feel, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll get the food going.”
Meaghan headed to the kitchen and was relieved to find that they had the ingredients to make tomato soup from scratch. She definitely preferred fresh over canned and she knew Bryan did too. When he wheeled into the kitchen fifteen minutes later he looked much better than he had when she arrived.
“Hey there, you look better.”
“I still feel like shit, but a shower made me feel slightly better. Hopefully some food will help too. I haven’t eaten since breakfast yesterday…”
“Sheesh Bryan, you’re a doctor and you know better.”
“I didn’t feel like cooking,” he defended himself.
“Well, have you ever heard of takeout? And we do have several cans of soup in the pantry.”
“Stopp nagging, please. If I needed a coddling mother I’d move to Philly, to be closer to my actual mother.”
“Sorry, I’m just worried about you.”
“It’s just the flu. I’ll be fine in a couple of days.”
“Want a grilled cheese with your soup?”
“No, my throat is sore. I’ll stick to the soup.”
Meaghan nodded and grabbed a ladle from the drawer next to the stove and filled two bowls with tomato soup. She buttered a couple of slices of bread for herself and brought it all over to the breakfast bar by the window. She slid a bowl and a spoon over to Bryan. After a few spoonfulls he turned and looked at Meaghan.
“This isn’t canned soup.” Bryan stated.
“Nope, I made it from scratch.”
“It’s really good. Did you add garlic?”
“Yep, and basil. Figured you’d appreciate some flavor.”
Bryan nodded and continued eating ‘til his bowl was empty. It was so good he was tempted to lick his bowl.
“Is there any more soup?” he asked Meaghan.
“Yep, there is. Want another portion?” she asked as she reached for his bowl.
“Yeah, that would be great.”
Saturday morning Bryan was feeling much better. The fever had decreased steadily and his throat was returning to normal. When he woke up Meaghan was still fast asleep. Bryan pulled the covers back and lifted his feet to the floor, and then he made the transfer to his wheelchair. For the first time in days it didn't feel like a massive effort. He placed his still AFO-clad feet onto the footrest and after a detour to the bathroom to take care of his morning routine he wheeled into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. Josh was coming over after lunch to help him and Meaghan get his gear ready for sale. He knew he could call Josh and tell him he still wasn’t feeling well and postpone it, but he didn’t want to. Now that he’d made the decision to get rid of it he just wanted to get it over with. It was time to move on and let go of the past.
“Hey handsome.” Meaghan’s voice pulled him out of his reverie and he felt her wrap her arms around his shoulders.
“Morning beautiful,” Bryan said with a smile as he turned around and pulled her into his lap.
“You look much better,” she said, before placing a kiss on his lips.
“I am much better. My fever is gone and my throat has returned to normal.”
“So you’re ready to get to work this afternoon?”
“Yeah, I know I could’ve played the sick-card with Josh, but I just want to get it over with.”
“If you’re not ready we don’t have to do it.”
“I’m ready. Believe me. It’s not like I’ll ever use any of that stuff again and you’re right; it’s ridiculous to keep it in a storage room where it just sits and collects dust.”
“I just don’t want to push you into doing something you’re not ready for. I still feel bad for upsetting you.”
“Megs, you have nothing to feel bad about. It’s my fault that I haven’t dealt with these things. I’ve just focused on work and that part of my life since rehab.”
“I’m sure that has been hard enough. I can’t even imagine going through what you’ve been trough. I don’t blame you for not dealing with everything at once.”
“I was fortunate enough to have a great support network. My family and friends were invaluable. And now I have you.”
“Yep, and I have you.” Meaghan kissed him soundly before she stood up and headed over to the fridge to figure out what to do for breakfast.
A couple of weeks later most of Bryan’s sports equipment was sold; the few things that hadn’t sold had either been donated to charity or thrown away. The storage unit now held the crates they’d needed space to store and there was plenty of room to spare. Bryan had talked about getting a hand cycle and a sports chair for wheelchair basketball. He hadn’t tried wheelchair basketball yet, but the gym where he worked out several times a week actually had a group that played a couple of evenings a week and they had room for new players. Bryan had decided to give it a go and he was both nervous and excited at the same time. He’d been on the varsity basketball team in high school and he’d kept playing for fun through college and up ‘till he got injured.
After his workout Tuesday evening he wheeled down to the gymnasium where they played. There were eight people on the court playing, and another six were sitting on the sideline. Everyone was in wheelchairs, apart from a few people that were on the bleachers, watching the game. Bryan made his way around the edge of the court and as he got closer to the six people in wheelchairs a man that appeared to be about the same age as Bryan turned away from the court and greeted him.
“Bryan?” he queried. Bryan nodded and offered his right hand.
“Bryan Norfleet, nice to meet you.”
“Marcus Hadley, call me Mark,” he said and shook Bryan’s hand firmly. “Nice to meet you Bryan. So, I hear you’re interested in joining us? Are you familiar with wheelchair basketball?”
“I’m familiar with basketball, I played on the varsity team in high school and for fun in college, but not after I got injured.”
“How long has it been and what sort of injury do you have, if you don’t mind me asking.”
“It’ll be three years in May and I’m a T12 complete paraplegic.”
“You look like you keep yourself in shape,” Mark stated, scrutinizing Bryan’s upper body. He was wearing a tight dry fit shirt that showed off his muscled shoulders and arms, with a pair of lightweight sweatpants and he had sneakers on his feet.
“I try to work out at least three times a week, but my work schedule is a bit unpredictable so it’s not always doable. Which might be a problem for you too; I probably won’t be able to come to every practice.”
“What do you work with?”
“I’m a doctor, oncology fellow at Georgetown University Hospital, which means I work shifts.”
“If you don’t plan on joining our competitive team and attend as many practices as possible it’s not a problem. We expect a certain commitment from our players, but we also understand that sometimes work and other things get in the way.”
“That’s completely understandable,” Bryan said with a smile.
“Do you have a sports chair?”
“No, I wanted to try it out before I spend money on one. Is that a problem?”
“No, not at all. Your regular chair looks like it’ll be okay for a few test games. We’re about to take a break. Want to meet the players and give it a try after the break?”
“Sure,” Bryan said with a smile. After watching the game for a few minutes he was more than ready to give it a go.
Meaghan was cooking dinner when Bryan got home. He wheeled straight into the bedroom; she knew he preferred to shower at home after going to the gym and it didn’t take long before she heard the shower running. She hoped he’d enjoyed playing basketball again and that he got along with the coach and other players on the team. She knew she’d have her answer soon enough, so she turned her attention back to the stir-fry she was making.
Fifteen minutes later, just as she was putting the finishing touches on their dinner, Bryan wheeled into the kitchen. The sight of him brought a smile to Meaghan’s face; his hair was still damp, causing it to curl at the ends, and he was dressed in a pair of sweatpants and a tight t-shirt.
“That smells amazing,” he said as he came up next to her and peeked into the wok.
“And it looks amazing too. Why didn’t you tell me sooner that you’re great at cooking Asian food?”
“It just never came up in conversation. One of college roommates was Vietnamese and she taught me a few basics. So, how was basketball?”
“I had a blast,” Bryan said, grinning from ear to ear. “The coach, Mark, is my age and we hit it off really well. We have similar injuries too, but he was injured during his freshman year of high school, so he’s been in a wheelchair longer than he was able to walk. The rest of the guys on the team seem nice too, so I’ll definitely go back on Thursday and try it again. It was fun to play a team sport again.”
“So, the money you got for your gear will be spent on a wheelchair for basketball?”
“Definitely. I’m going to set an appointment to be measured for one as soon as possible.”
“Well, dinner is ready. Hopefully your workout followed by some basketball got your appetite up.”
“Yep, I was about ready to eat my gloves when I left the gym,” Bryan chuckled as he wheeled over to the table.
“Good thing I made about twice as much food as necessary then,” Meaghan chuckled as she placed the wok on the table. She was glad Bryan had enjoyed playing wheelchair basketball and wanted to continue playing.
To be continued...