Two Brothers

by Rob Warr

Chapter 8


"Mrs. Lewis, this is Jeanie Mitchell, I'm the nurse at Beevers Elementary," came the voice on Mrs. Lewis cell phone. She had just finished lunch and was wiping down the table when the call came in.

"Yes, this is Mrs. Lewis. Is this about Sean?" she said immediately, sensing more than reasoning that was the case.

"Yes, Sean came to me complaining of a pain in his lower back, and looking at his records and seeing his condition, I thought it was best to call you. I have done an initial exam and he has a slight temperature and nausea, as well as the pain in the area of his kidney."

"You did the right thing. I'll be there in fifteen minutes. I'll call his doctor right away and if he can't see him I'll take him to the ER."

"All right, just check in at the office, we're right next door."

Mrs. Lewis was glad she'd showered and dressed earlier, intending to do a little shopping, and she was in the car almost as soon as she ended the call. It was a short drive, but it seemed to take forever that morning, despite there being little traffic that time of day.

She speed-dialed Sean's doctor, Dr. Mulberry, and he'd said to bring him in right away and he'd make room for him. She thanked the doctor and concentrated on her driving, not wanting to wind up in a fender-bender and leaving Sean hanging.

Finally she pulled up into the drop-off lane, parking there despite the No Parking signs, because she considered this to be an emergency. Flying up the walk and through the doors she made her way to the office which was just a short distance down the hallway.

The door to the outer office was propped open and a young woman looked up as Judy Lewis bounded in looking ready to pounce on someone, anyone. This must be Sean's mom, she thought, but before she could speak, Judy beat her to the punch.

"My son, Sean Lewis, I'm here to pick him up," she said breathlessly.

"Yes, of course, Mrs. Lewis. But, I'll need to see some kind of ID," she said apologetically, it's just one of those rules...meant for the safety of the kids..." she said, trailing off and wishing someone else was working the desk at that moment.

"What? ID, do you actually think a stranger is going to come in an pick up my child just like that? How would they know he was sick? Your nurse called me..." she practically screamed.

Fortunately, Nurse Mitchell, who knew Judy by sight, happened in the door at that moment to save the day.

"Mary, this is Mrs. Lewis, I'll vouch for her. It's important that she get Sean to the Doctor's office right away."

"Thanks, Jeanie," the woman said, happy to pass this mother lion on to someone else.

"Hi son," his mom said, having calmed down by the time the nurse had led her into her office.

"Hi mom, sorry about this..." Sean said, tears in his eyes.

"Oh, honey, don't be. You can't help it if you get sick. I've called Doctor M, and he's gonna make time to see you today. It's probably something simple like before and you'll be fine in no time."

"Thanks mom, thanks Nurse Mitchell," Sean said sitting up.

"You're welcome Sean, get better, okay?"

"Yeah, I will," Sean said managing a small smile, "Well, see ya."

"Goodbye, good luck, and please let us know what the doctor says."

"I will, one way or the other. Chances are Sean will be back to school tomorrow and he can tell you himself," Judy prayed.

The drive to the doctor's office took a bit longer than the drive to school, not because of traffic, but because it was located on the other side of town in a huge medical complex near the city's biggest hospital.

Parking was never a problem with the six story parking garage next door, and she was able to park on the ground floor and not too far away from the entrance. They rode an elevator to the third floor and spilled out into a lobby, with an open railing that looked out onto the main lobby on the first floor. Sean had always enjoyed looking over the rail to the scene below, but today all he wanted to do was get to the doctor's office and sit down.

The walk to the doctor's office was a short one, and once inside they were greeted by the receptionist, Diana, who had been working for Dr. M for as long as Sean had been coming there.

"Hi guys," she said cordially, "Doctor M told me you were on the way. He's with a patient right now, but as soon as he finishes someone will call for you. Just have a seat, it won't be long."

"Thanks, Diana. Hopefully this is just another false alarm," Judy Lewis said, hoping and praying she was right.

"How are you feeling, honey?" she asked Sean as they sat down.

"Okay, I guess. It still hurts, but I'm not as sick to my stomach as I was."

"That's good. What were you doing when the pain hit?"

"Just standing at my locker, but I'd felt kinda bad all morning. Tim was there and he took one look at me and said I should go see the nurse, so...I did. I think I scared Tim," he frowned, "Sometimes I wish he hadn't found out about my condition."

"Because he watches out for you now?" his mom said, but before he could answer, she continued, "that's not necessarily a bad thing. He cares about you, that's all. He always has, and maybe he's going a bit overboard, but that's just because he loves you."

Sean blushed, but he knew his mom was right. It was just the way she said, 'he loves you', that caused him some embarrassment. He loved Tim too, but he wasn't quite ready to shout it from the rooftops.

He was about to say something else when a nurse appeared at the side door and called Sean's name.

"Hey, handsome, how ya doing?" the nurse, Wanda, said patting Sean on the shoulder. She too had been with Doctor M since he began his practice and seemed to know all his patients by name. She was in her late 40's or early 50's with grown kids and several grandkids, and she and her husband lived on a small farm just outside of town. She had invited the Lewis family to the farm several times, but so far they'd never found time or opportunity to make the trip.

After weighing Sean and measuring his height, she led them to an examination room where she took his temperature and other vitals.

"He's a bit hot, but only a half degree, she said to Judy. So, what's going on with you, slugger?" she said to Sean then, not going over his head by asking Judy.

Sean patiently explained what had happened, and when he'd finished, Nurse Wanda had him stand while she examined his kidney for tenderness.

"Oww," Sean said softly.

"Sorry, buddy," Wanda said making some notes on the computer, "you can sit back down now. Anything else I need to know?" she asked Judy then.

"I don't think so, you know about the infection a while back, I assume that's in the chart."

"Yes," Wanda said, reading off the information while Judy nodded her agreement, "and you last saw Doctor M, on the 14th, correct?"

"Yes, and everything was fine then," Judy said frowning, "that's why this came as such a surprise."

"Well, these things happen, but you're in good hands. Doctor Mulberry is the best."

Bad news is never easy to take, but when you've lived with a perpetual piano hanging over your head for 11 years, it doesn't come as quite a shock when it comes tumbling down to crush you.

"I'm referring you to a specialist," Dr. M, said, but I'm pretty sure he will agree. For whatever reason, Sean's kidney is shutting down. Right now it's still partially functioning, but I'm afraid eventually he'll need to go on dialysis. Of course he'll be put on the transplant list, but as I'm sure you know, that might take a while."

Sean sat quietly listening to the doctor, but he didn't feel as if he was talking over his head, he'd addressed him first and explained what was going on, now he was just going into detail for his mother's sake.

"Am I gonna die?" Sean said, but there was no self pity, no tragedy in his voice.

"We all are, someday, but I foresee you having a very long and productive life," Dr. M said before his mother could speak, "Modern medicine has come a long way, even since you were born, and this isn't a condition we can't handle."

"Okay, but you'll tell me if...if things are going wrong, right?" Sean said sounding worried now.

"Haven't I always been honest with you, buddy?" Dr. M said laying a reassuring hand on Sean's shoulder, "I'd never lie to you or candy coat things, but that's easy in this case, cause one way or another you're going to be fine. But, first we get a second opinion from Dr. Jarvis, and we'll reevaluate things then. Okay, buddy?"

Sean nodded, "Will I have to quit going to school?"

Dr. M actually laughed, "Sorry, buddy,'re not getting out of that."

Sean laughed too, "Well, it never hurts to ask."

"Is there anything we need to do in the meantime, Doctor?" Judy asked then, trying to keep her head on straight and not overreact to the situation.

"Nothing out of the ordinary. Just keep doing what you've been doing, and continue with his meds. Someone will call you as soon as they have the appointment booked for Dr. Jarvis."

"Thank you Doctor," Judy said, "Sean honey, are you ready to go?"

"Sure," Sean said hopping down off the examination table, "can we stop by McDonald's on the way home?"

Dr. M laughed again, "Well, you must be feeling better if you're asking for fast food."

"I skipped breakfast and I'm kinda hungry," Sean said sheepishly.

"Well, enjoy, buddy. See you soon. And don't worry too much. We're gonna take very good care of you. You're our favorite patient, after all," he said giving the boy a wink, "my nurses love you."

"Aww," Sean said blushing, "I love them too. Everyone is always so nice to me."

"That's because you're a nice young man, and we're all on your side."

"Thanks. Well, we should go, mom, before I start bawling like a baby," Sean said managing a small smile.

On the way to McDonald's, Sean was pensive, staring out the window and avoiding any discussion of his condition or what the future held. He couldn't say he was surprised, for he'd been living with a ticking time bomb inside him for as long as he could remember. He just wished, that if things had to go bad they could've waited till he was older, and had lived more life. If he died now there would be so many things he'd never get to do. Fall in love, maybe get married, have kids. But he wasn't sure if that was what he wanted anyway. Right now he considered himself gay, and even though gays could marry, they couldn't have kids, well not with each other.

He supposed in a way he had at least fallen in love, with Tim. But maybe loving someone wasn't really being in love. There were so many things he didn't understand, and maybe he'd never find the answers. He wondered what it was like to be dead. Was it just like sleeping only you didn't dream cause your brain was dead. Did you go somewhere else, did you come back as someone else? He'd been taught there was a God, a Heaven, and a Hell, but like so many other things in life he'd taken all that with a grain of salt and waited for greater understanding to come as he got older. Now, maybe he would never grow any older. Maybe 11 was it, or 12 if he was lucky.

Without being consciously aware of it he sighed almost dramatically, attracting his mother's attention. She'd finally had enough of his silence. That silence could only mean one thing: he was brooding and thinking about the worst case scenario, his death.

"Honey, do you trust me?"

"Well, sure, mom," Sean said sounding surprised by her question.

"And do you trust Doctor M?"

"I guess, I mean, he's never lied to me before, that I know of."

"Well, then please, please believe us when we say you are going to come through this just fine. Even if it takes a while to find a donor, dialysis will keep you healthy."

"Does it mean that someone has to die for me to get a kidney?" Sean asked, suddenly realizing that kidneys didn't grow on trees, and that most people weren't likely to give one up to help a stranger, not even a kid.

"Not necessarily..." she said honestly, "As you know a person can live with only one kidney, and often someone will donate a kidney simply because they feel it's the right thing to do. Of course their kidney has to be compatible with the recipient..."

"But most of them come from dead people, right?"

"Well, I suppose. You see there are people who agree to donate their organs, umm...if they die, and that makes it possible for others to live. So, in a way a part of that person lives on in the person that received the organ..."

"Kind of creepy, mom," Sean laughed, but there was no humor in the laugh.

They arrived at McDonald's then and the conversation was thankfully put on hold for the time being, but she was sure it wasn't over.

"Dine in or drive-through?"

"Can we eat inside? It would be cold by the time we got home."

"Sure, I could use a cup of coffee and maybe some fries myself."

The conversation over lunch was subdued while Sean solemnly ate his lunch, pausing occasionally to sip his fountain drink. Judy sipped her coffee, thinking how awful it was, but needing the caffeine and forcing it down anyway. She nibbled at her fries, but she really wasn't hungry. All she wanted to do right now was get Sean home and wrap him in her arms and assure him that everything would be okay.

"Don't tell Tim, please," Sean said suddenly, "I want to be the one to tell him, but not now...later."

"All right, but I'll want to tell his mom, just in case. I'm sure she will understand why you want to be the one to tell your friend."

"He's already freaked out enough," Sean said solemnly, "I don't want him offering a kidney or anything," he managed to laugh, but only for a moment.

"I'm sure he would gladly give you one of his," his mother agreed.

"Can we go now?" Sean said pulling Judy up out of her thoughts.

"What? Oh, yes. I'm ready. Are you sure you don't want some ice cream to go?"

"Well...maybe an Oreo McFlurry," Sean said grinning.

"Here's five dollars, why don't you go take care of that while I run to the ladies' room."

When Judy emerged, having washed the grease off her hands and splashed water on her face, Sean was eating his ice cream, near the exit door.

"Is that good?" she asked just to make conversation.

"Yummy, want a bite?"

"Sure," She said smiling, although ice cream was not a high priority on her list of things she wanted right now, she wasn't about to refuse his offer to share, knowing how important it was to him to do so. But one bite was enough to satisfy both, and soon they were on their way home.

Sean headed to his room for a nap as soon as they got home and Judy used this free time to call her husband.

"Paul, can you talk?"

"Yeah, what's up babe?"

"I have some bad news..."

The specialist only confirmed what Doctor M had suspected upon his initial examination of Sean. His one kidney was failing, though slowly, and there was hope they could find a donor before he needed to go on dialysis.

It wasn't until after his visit with the specialist, Doctor Jarvis, that Sean finally told Tim what was going on. At first Tim was angry.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he said pacing the floor of his bedroom.

"Because I didn't want to worry you until I knew for sure what was going on," Sean said simply, and because I knew you'd make a big deal out of it," just like you are now, he didn't add.

"You should've told me," Tim insisted, "I could've..."

"Could've what? Felt sorry for me, and made things even worse for me," Sean blurted out, "No, no, I'm sorry...I didn't mean that..."

Tim was stunned at first, but suddenly he came over and sat down beside Sean. For a moment or so he stared at the floor, then turning to face Sean, their eyes met. Both boys' eyes were wet with tears, and instinctively they reached up and wiped the other's tears away.

"I'm really scared," Tim said, his lips quivering as he tried to keep from breaking down completely.

"You and me both," Sean sighed, "but the doctors say I'll be fine till they find a donor."

"Will I do? You can have one of my kidneys, then we'll be just alike, one kidney each."

Sean laughed, "I told mom this would happen. Anyway, even if you were a match I wouldn't let ya. You might need the spare at some point."

"How do I find out if I'm a match?"

"Forget it, your folks would never agree, even if we were a match, and neither would I. And I got a choice you know, this is my body we're talking about, too."

"Hey, don't get all pissy. I was just tryin' to help," Tim said grinning, "What's wrong with my kidney? I'd think you'd be happy to get part of me inside you."

"I will be, but the part I want inside me is down there, a little lower and in front," Sean said grinning, "but we're not quite ready for that."

Tim wiped at his nose. He felt some better, but he knew later when he was all alone and the shock really hit him, he'd probably fall apart. Sean just couldn't die though. Nah, the Doctors had said he'd be fine, and what else could they do but rely on them to make things right?

"So...what next?" Tim asked.

"We wait. I'm on the donor list and I'll have regular checkups to make sure things aren't getting worse. If that happens I might have to do dialysis, which is yucky, but it will keep me alive."

"Ugh, is that where they suck your blood out and purify it then put it back in?"

"Something like that, but I'm hoping I can skip that fun part."

"Yeah, me too," Tim said, then fell silent. After a few minutes he leaned over and pulled Sean into a hug and just held him.

Sean patted him and they cried, both boys scared and uncertain, but praying for the best.

As is the usual routine, family members were screened for compatibility for Sean's new kidney. Sean's blood type was 'O', while his parent's were both 'B'. Patrick was the last to be tested, but Judy already knew that Patrick and Sean were both type 'O'. She prided herself on knowing as much about her kids as she could, and knowing their blood type was as simple to her as remembering their birth dates.

Of course there were other tests to be made, but it looked like Patrick was the only possible match in the family for Sean.

Considering Patrick's attitude lately, Judy and Paul were hesitant to ask the big question: would Patrick be willing to donate a kidney should he be found to be a compatible match? Fortunately, they were saved the need to ask.

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