Sunday came and Ariana was in the hospital around two o’clock. Jason was awake, he shifted when Ariana came into his room.Ariana walked up to his bed and stroked his hair out of his forehead, “Hey baby! How are you today?”
She leaned over him and said softly, “I love you!”
Jason took Ariana’s hand squeezing it, then holding it next to his body on the bed. She sat down on the chair next to the bed and asked, “I guess your dad wasn’t here yet today?”
Jason slowly moved his head from side to side at the question.
Ariana felt his warm fingers around her hand and looked at their two locked hands on the bed, then back over at Jason, who still had his eyes on her, “How are you Jason?”
She saw him nod slightly. Pulling the chair closer she asked him, “Are you still dealing with spasms?” He shook his head again.
The sheet and blanket was draped over Jason’s legs up to his hips. Some sticky sensors on his bare chest were still monitoring his heartbeat. Ariana let her eyes travel over his chest, admiring once again the tattoo of the wolf with Brandon’s name under it over Jason’s heart. She could make out his ribs protruding and a hollow gap marking his abdomen with his stomach probably mostly empty.
Jason had been getting liquid nutrition through a naso-gastric feeding tube since he couldn’t eat being on the ventilator. She saw his chest rise up and down softly as her eyes stayed on him and she thought about how much she wanted him. Her hands were desperately longing to touch him all over and she would have loved to slide down the sheet so she could see his legs. As her eyes travelled over his body she ended at Jason’s face and his eyes watching her closely. She felt a little embarrassed, like she was caught in a forbidden act and as she looked away quickly Jason squeezed her hand again and when she looked up, she saw him lift his right hand with all the IV’s in it and he gave her a thumbs up.
She smiled under the mask and leaned a bit closer to him, saying softly, “I can’t wait to be with you again on the outside, Jason.” He nodded and pulled her hand up on his heart, holding it there for a few moments.
It was around four o'clock when Ariana announced lowly, “I have to leave now Jason.” She had been thinking about letting Jason know that she had a job that night but she really didn’t want to tell him anymore when she had a job because she didn’t want to upset him. Now he looked at her with questioning eyes and she thought about what to do.
He was surprised when she told him she had to go already. It was Sunday night and he assumed she most likely had a job to go to. He held her hand tightly as she leaned over some.
Ariana didn’t want to meet his eyes because she felt bad about having to leave already. Jason pulled her hand over and with that pulled her closer to his face. He let go off her hand but put his hand on her face and moved it toward him as she was trying to avoid his eyes. Ariana had no way to avoid his eyes then with his hand on her cheek holding her there. His eyes were dark and shiny and Ariana knew he had an idea why she had to leave. Jason then let his hand softly stroke over her cheek until he grabbed her hand again.“I will be back tomorrow as soon as I can and I am so excited to see you off the ventilator tomorrow. One more night baby, one more night.” With that she pulled her mask off quickly and kissed him on his forehead and told him again she loved him.
After Ariana had left Jason felt somewhat depressed because he knew she had a job to tend to and she had kept that information from him on purpose.
Monday morning was a busy day in the ICU, some patients were transferred out and some new patients came in. Jason’s curtain was open and he could hear the sounds from outside his room and before Nurse Jill left at seven o’clock, she came into the room once more and smiled at Jason, “Hey Jason, my friend. I will be off for a few days now and I am really looking forward to seeing you again without the ventilator the next time, maybe even in another room and not in here anymore.”As she stood next to the bed she asked him, “Do you want me to recline you a bit more?”
He nodded and she pushed the button and slowly with a humming sound Jason’s head end of the bed moved up, reclining him to a more upright position, but not too much where he would feel unstable in the bed.
Jill smiled, “Well, sugar, I will be back on Friday and I hope you will have a wonderful week and be even better the next time I see you.”
Jason gave her a thumbs up and she stroked over his arm quickly and then left with a cheerful Good Bye. Jason looked after her walking out and he saw people walking by outside his room in the ICU hallway, every once in a while someone would glance in to him with a smile. He could just lay there and watch life happen outside his door.
He couldn’t wait to be out of the ICU and in his mind he kept telling himself over and over again that he could not let it come to this again. He needed to take better care of himself and not wait if something didn’t seem right. Way too long he had pushed the obvious signs aside and eventually it all turned really bad and serious for him. He wanted to slap himself for having pushed his body too far this time. Lost in thoughts he waited anxiously for Dr. Shumar.
It was almost ten o’clock when Dr. Shumar walked in followed by Nurse Becky. They greeted Jason friendly and Dr. Shumar walked right up to Jason. Jason expected to get a talk from Dr. Shumar but instead all he said was, “Good Morning Jason! Are you ready to get this ventilator taken off?”
Jason was surprised and also worried now. From his time in the hospital after the accident he remembered all too well that the extubation while awake was not going to be a pleasant experience. He looked at Dr. Shumar and nodded. Dr. Shumar stood over by the computer in the room and logged into the program, eventually announcing while looking at the screen, “Everything is looking good and your MRI on your lungs looked really good on Friday, your lungs are working well again and I think we can try without the ventilator. We have to do it now because I have an appointment I need to get to soon. The respiratory therapist is on his way and we will get you extubated then. Are you ready Jason?” The doctor turned around and looked over at Jason, who nodded.With that the doctor turned his eyes to the computer screen again, “I am glad you are doing better Jason. You had a lot of people worried.”
A few moments later, the respiratory therapist showed up with another nurse. As they introduced themselves to Jason with a friendly greeting Nurse Becky was checking all the vitals. Paul, the respiratory therapist set up the oxygen mask and prepared everything for the extubation. They all were chatting with each other like it was no big deal. Becky let Jason’s bed down just a little and he could feel his hands getting sweaty and anxiety creep up inside him thinking about the ordeal he would go through in a moment but trying to focus on what would be after and how good it would be.
They closed the door to the room and the curtain was pulled as the other nurse, Nadja, put her hand on Jason’s forehead stroking him softly while Becky stood next to the bed, getting ready to start the process with the doctor. Dr. Shumar smiled at Jason, “Are you ready my friend?” Jason just nodded weakly.
Nadja stood next to Dr. Shumar by Jason’s head, holding him in place and Becky on the opposite side with the suction hose in her gloved hands. Paul was readily standing by with the Oxygen mask.
They held his head still as Becky suctioned saliva and secretions from Jason’s throat and Dr. Shumar explained everything that was being done and prepared the tubing to be pulled from Jason’s throat. The process of a few minutes seemed like forever to Jason and he was having a very difficult time with it. They had to move slowly, constantly telling Jason to try to relax as the tubing was pulled out from deep inside through his tracheal tube. He was choking, gagging and slobbering all over himself and felt very much at the mercy of the staff. Nadja kept wiping his chin and mouth and held his head in place, somewhat extending his neck. Jason was supposed to cough lightly but instead he almost fell into a heavy cough attack with the pulling of the breathing tube. Dr. Shumar kept telling him how good of a job Jason was doing and trying to keep Jason calm. Becky was still suctioning fluids and secretions out from Jason’s throat.
Once the tubing was out, his throat burned and felt sore. Jason kept coughing and choking and with every swallow he felt a burning pain inside his throat. Paul had the oxygen ready for Jason and he slipped the mask over Jason’s face, pulling the elastic band around the back of his head, fastening the mask and saying comforting words, “There we go, almost all done and try to breathe now Jason.”As Paul was fastening the oxygen mask on Jason’s head, Becky said with a smile, “It is done now, buddy, it is all going to be good now.”
Jason was taking gasping breaths and tried to get his cough under control while everyone watched on, keeping an eye on his vitals and making sure he was o.k. His eyes were tearing up not because of emotions but because of the coughing and the gagging.
Dr. Shumar kept talking in a calm manner to Jason and the same was true for Becky, who was motivating Jason to hang in there.Jason calmed down trying to get his breathing under control with the respiratory therapist counting lowly to get Jason into a steady rhythm of breathing. He knew he had to be on his best behavior now and try his hardest to do good so they wouldn’t change their mind about him coming off the ventilator and his body reacting to the stress. After about 15 minutes Jason was finally breathing steady and the cough had stopped. His throat was sore with every swallow, he flinched at the pain.
Dr. Shumar gave the responsibility over to the staff; he had to get to his other patient and told Jason he would be back in later to check on him. Paul stayed by Jason’s side monitoring his breathing for another 30 minutes, adjusting the Oxygen and Becky stayed on top of the vitals. Nadja said her Good Bye and left to tend to her patients again. Jason felt somewhat exhausted from the ordeal and just laid there.Becky asked him softly, “Hey Jason, how are you feeling? Try to tell me.”
He blinked his eyes, who felt heavy now and attempting to move his lips into words he took a gasping breath, swallowed and after a moment he said lowly and with a scratchy voice, “O.K.”
“Good. Are you in pain right now?” Becky leaned down.
Jason moved his lips again and said barely loud enough, “My throat…”
Becky nodded, “Yeah, I will give you some pain meds for that. It is normal and by tonight you should not have too much pain anymore.”
With that she left out the room for a moment. She then came back with an anesthetic throat spray, Paul slipped Jason’s mask off one more time and Becky sprayed into Jason’s throat to help him with the soreness and pain.Jason’s throat felt empty and hollow, he still suffered some weak coughing as he tried to breathe normal. He was busy trying to collect himself and eventually just laid there, breathing in a steady rhythm and feeling very exhausted. He closed his eyes and heard Becky and Paul talk about him and how he was doing and they felt he needed to rest now.
Becky then said, “Jason, we will let you rest right now. You did really good. Extubation is never fun but we did it! So, just sleep now and in a few hours things will be even better.”Jason opened his eyes for a moment; saw Becky smile and Paul lean over, “You did good Jason. No more ventilator. Just the mask and we will try to wean you off of that one as well here in the next few days. Thanks!”
Jason nodded and all he could manage was a lift of his hand for a small wave as the two walked out of his room. Then he gave in to his exhaustion and fell asleep.
Ariana was on her way to the hospital on Monday afternoon. Her job the night before had not been an overnight job so she had gotten enough sleep in her own bed and couldn’t wait to see Jason soon. While she sat in the bus, a phone call came in from Darryl, “Hi Darryl!”“Hi Ariana! How are you?”
“I am doing o.k. but how are you doing?”
Darryl sounded tired, “I am o.k. but the weekend was a bit rough. Did you go see Jason?”
“Yes, I saw him Fri, Sat. and yesterday.”
Darryl sounded relieved, “Thank goodness! I am glad you were there.”
“Yes, he was awake and seemed to be doing really well.”
Darryl continued, “I just called the hospital and they told me he is off the ventilator and is sleeping right now. They said he did really well. I am so glad he is off that thing.”
“Me too. Those are wonderful news. I am on my way to see him right now.”
“Ariana, I am not sure if I can make it today, I am still pretty beat from my treatment on Friday. It really kicked my behind this time.”
“Don’t worry, I will stay with Jason today.”
“I am glad you are going to see him. I feel really bad. I will try to get some rest and maybe I can make it later on this afternoon.”
Ariana said softly, “Darryl, if you don’t feel good then you should not worry about going today. Maybe tomorrow you feel better.”
“I will see how the rest of the day goes.”
“O.k., I will tell him you called.”
“Thanks so much Ariana.”
Ariana thought for a moment, then said, “I have another question for you Darryl!”
“Yes dear, what is it?”
Ariana took a breath and asked, “When Jason was still o.k. and driving, what kind of cars did he have or like?”
Darryl was a bit surprised at the question but thought for a moment and then answered, “He always had pick-up trucks, I think one was a Chevy Silverado, and he had an old Ford Ranger at some point, those are two I can remember, I think there was one other one, maybe another Chevy…then he had a motorcycle, he had a Harley in California and then the Harley he had here in Vegas….”
His words faded out at the mention of the motorcycle in Vegas which eventually had become Jason’s fate.
“Why are you asking?”
“I don’t know I was just wondering.”
They finished their conversation and hung up with each other. Ariana had been looking at cars and trucks, thinking about something big she wanted to do. She had wanted to get a car herself for a while but just hadn’t went through with it but lately she had been thinking about it quite a bit again.
At the hospital she walked into the foyer. She got really nervous about Jason being off the ventilator now. On her way to the ICU she tried to prepare herself for the situation. Jason could breathe on his own again and most likely talk again too. She was buzzed into the ICU and walked through the door. At the nurses’ station Becky stopped her, “Ariana, Hi!”Becky came around the counter of the nurse’s station and smiled at Ariana, “How are you?”
Becky started, “So, we have good news…Jason is off the ventilator. We extubated him this morning. All he uses now is an oxygen mask and he is doing really well with his breathing today already. He also still has the feeding tube and we will probably remove that tomorrow or the next day. He has been sleeping on and off today without sedatives but just on his own, the extubation was kind of exhausting this morning. His throat is sore but he can talk again.”Ariana was nervous but also happy to hear about Jason doing good, “I am relieved he is off the ventilator. I know he was really ready for that. Can I see him?”
“Yeah sure, you can go on in. He is probably still feeling pretty beat so take it easy on him, not too much excitement, O.k.! You also don’t have to worry about wearing a mask anymore. That policy is lifted, Jason is stable enough again. Just no sneezing on him or other exchange of bodily fluids.” Becky laughed when she said the words.
“Thanks Becky, no problem.”
She walked to the back and saw Jason through the window with just the oxygen mask on. She knocked on the door lightly, used hand sanitizer and walked on in. Jason shifted in his bed. She walked up to him and he opened his eyes sleepily and focused on her.
Ariana smiled, “Hey babe…” She waited a moment, then added, “I am so happy to see you off the ventilator.”Jason shifted some more and Ariana actually saw him smile under the mask and the wrinkles in the corners of his eyes forming. He reached toward her hand and took it in his. He swallowed and started with a low scratchy voice, somewhat muffled with the Oxygen mask on his face, “Ariana.”
His chest was rising up and down quickly and Ariana was worried he would get too excited. She stroked through his hair and said softly, “Everything will be o.k. Jason. Just stay calm for me. You don’t have to talk.”
She scanned his face and of what she could see, it looked like he had just gotten a shave; his face looked smooth and clean. His eyes were dark and shiny on her, and she realized how in the last four weeks his dark hair had grown somewhat longer curling up in the back by his neck.
“You look so good, Jason.” She smiled at him.Jason kept his eyes on her and then he moved his hand up to the mask on his face. Ariana said worriedly, “Leave the mask on Jason. You still need it.”
Jason ignored her and put his hand to the mask and pulled it over his head quickly. His chest was moving quickly up and down and Ariana looked worried over toward the hallway, hoping Becky or any other nurse wouldn’t see what Jason was doing.Jason then told Ariana with a low scratchy voice, breathing heavy, “Pull the..curtain shut!”
Jason was having a difficult time breathing but he didn’t care. He wanted Ariana to see his face and he wanted to be able to speak. Ariana hurried to the curtain and pulled it shut, then came back over to the bed and even though she was worried about Jason and she saw his chest move fast she also loved seeing his face all the way. All he had on him now was the naso-gastric feeding tube disappearing into his nostrils. He held the mask in his right hand lying next to his body on the bed.
He looked at Ariana and started with difficulties, “Ariana, I..I missed you…so…much.” The sentence came out in gasps and he spoke lowly, trying to catch his breath in between. He swallowed and frowned from the pain in his throat.Ariana stroked over his hair, “Jason, please don’t try to talk too much. It is too strenuous for you.”
Jason didn’t care how strenuous it was, he wanted to talk to her and he wanted to hear the three words come over her lips again.Ariana looked at him, “I can’t wait for you to get out of here.”
He nodded and took a gasping breath, “Me neither...I am so…happy…you came…” His voice was low and Ariana leaned down to hear him better.
Jason coughed but dodged a heavier attack.
“I missed you so much Jason. I…” she felt her eyes get teary as she continued, “I am…so sorry about…everything.”Jason shook his head and squeezed her hand, “Don’t be.”
Ariana looked down, “…but I am sorry…I was wrong to….”
She didn’t finish her sentence because she didn’t know how to say what she wanted to say. A smirk brushed over Jason’s face, “Wrong about...what?...Wanting….to have…a piece of me.”
He took a couple of breaths, squeezing his eyes shut for a second and kept on, “It is…behind us….” Taking another deep breath he added, “Things are….different now.”
Ariana nodded and she felt a tear roll down her face. Jason saw it and moved his hand up to her face, wiping the tear away weakly with his finger, “Don’t cry.”His chest was still moving up and down quickly, she heard his breathing.
Ariana lost another tear, “I am so sorry Jason. I love you!”
With his finger he wiped the next tear away, and let his fingers glide through her hair hanging down, scanning her face with his eyes, taking quick breaths.
Lowly he gasped, “I loved...you…from the moment I….saw you at the…clinic.” Ariana felt some more tears roll down her face and Jason added lowly, “It’s o.k….you don’t…have to cry.” He took another breath and a smile brushed over his face, ”Isn’t it….a good thing?” He was breathing in deeply.Ariana sniffled with a smile, “Yes, Jason, it is a good thing but I am so sorry about everything, the way everything began with us. I don’t deserve you.”
Jason just smiled and let his fingers glide through her hair some more. He was still having difficulties breathing. Talking and breathing was strenuous for him and he stayed quiet while he just kept his eyes on Ariana’s face, wiping another tear away from her cheek and touching her hair softly. He felt weak and could barely lift his arm but he wanted to touch her some way or another. His throat was hurting with every swallow and gasping breath he took.
Ariana tried to collect her emotions and just let Jason touch her hair, looking him in the eyes and trying not to cry anymore.As she wiped her face and watched Jason breathe heavily she said softly, “You should probably put the Oxygen mask back on.”
Jason shook his head but just looked at Ariana. Even though it was difficult for him to breathe, his throat hurt, his chest felt tight and there was a slight pain he didn’t want the mask, he wanted to breathe on his own and he felt his body just needed to manage. It was strenuous though for his body and he felt very weak still.
Ariana eventually told Jason about his dad not being able to come, because he was tired from his last treatment. She didn’t go into any details because she didn’t want to worry Jason. He listened to Ariana quietly and then looked up at the ceiling. His expression was worried but he didn’t say anything.
When he turned to look at Ariana again he said lowly, “I think…I may….have….lost my….job.”Ariana knew that he had actually been let go because his employer couldn’t deal with Jason being sick so much anymore. Darryl had already told her about it.
She replied softly, “Don’t worry about that yet, Jason.”
Even though she said not to worry Jason was very worried about how things would be for him once he got out of the hospital if he had no income anymore.
They held hands and Ariana watched how Jason’s eyes tried to close and she said softly, “Jason, if you want to sleep, it is o.k. You need to get rest. You should also put the oxygen back on your face.”Jason shook his head, gasping lowly, “I don’t…want it.”
Ariana didn’t like seeing his body compensate for the lack of oxygen and she took the mask from his hand and said sternly, “Jason, don’t fight me on this. I am putting the mask back on your face.”
Jason was somewhat surprised by her command but he let her put the mask on his face again. He felt relieve right away, oxygen flowing freely into his mouth and nose and letting his chest relax.
He focused on his breathing and closed his eyes again. Jason felt exhausted and tired from breathing without the mask; he could barely keep his eyes open anymore. Ariana just sat quietly next to his bed, watching him breathe with his eyes closed and feeling so much for him.
Eventually Jason opened his eyes and pulled Ariana closer to him. He moved his mask off to the side just a bit so he could speak, still with difficulties, “Ariana…will you come….back tomorrow?”Ariana nodded in confirmation, “Of course, I will come every day until you get discharged.”
Jason looked at her seriously, “I need you….Ariana.”
He squeezed her hand in his and Ariana looked down momentarily touched by his words, then up again, “I won’t leave your side Jason.”
His eyes were dark and shiny on her and he said weakly, “I love you.”
Ariana stroked his cheek, “I love you too.”
She helped him pull the mask back over as he kept his eyes on her and stayed by his bedside until his eyes closed and he was asleep.