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Anne Gaylord looked as devastated as Cathy felt. Her hair, a touch more strawberry than her brother's ash blond, was mussed and disordered for the first time in Cathy's experience. Her pretty face with its little girl features and strong chin was devoid of makeup, her already pale complexion grey with exhaustion and grief. "It was a hard decision, but my parents have decided there's no sense in pursuing extraordinary measures to keep his body alive when Ethan isn't there anymore. They've..." She paused to draw a shaky breath. "They've instructed the doctors to withhold any..." Another pause as she tried to maintain a tight hold on her emotions. "They've instructed the doctors to withhold any life extending treatment or procedures or ... care of any sort." Her full lips, so reminiscent of her brother's trembled. "They're to keep him clean and comfortable ... and that's all."
Cathy's mind blanked at what she was reading. No, that couldn't be right. "They don't want him to have any medical care?"
Anne shook her head, a tight little action of emotion barely in check. "Any care. Nothing but matters of hygiene and comfort. The nurse will be here soon to remove his IV."
No. Oh not that! Cathy reeled. "They're going to starve him? Let him die of thirst?" The horror brought roiling nausea. "No. That's cruel. It's wrong." A harsh hand clutched her heart, sinking sharp fingers into it. "I can see on your face that you know it's not right to do this to him!" She could hardly breathe against the pain in her chest. "If he was on a ventilator or life support it would be understandable and, and his ... release from pain would be quick. Maybe even a mercy, but he's breathing on his own.His body's healing!"
"What else can we do? You know Ethan would hate being like this. Just a ... a body without any mind behind it. He was always so damned proud of his intellect." Tears shivered on Anne's golden lashes. "And now that's all gone. It's been over a month with no sort of response. Nothing." Her pugilist's chin trembled and one of the tears fell. "My brother died before he ever got to the hospital. I just have to accept that."
"We don't know that for sure!" Cathy reached for Ethan's hand, the memory of it clutched in her hair as he held her secure against death too raw for her to step away from this. "There was a report in the news just a few weeks ago about a woman who was like ... like the doctors are telling you Ethan is. Everything said she had no sort of higher brain function, but they ran a test and found out she was aware! She wasn't unconscious or asleep. She followed directions they gave her!" Cathy gripped Ethan's hand so tightly her fingers ached. "Have they run that test on Ethan? Are they sure he's not ... trapped inside there, just not able to move?"
Anne seemed unable to decide what to do with her hands. They made half-gestures, slim fingers starting to move and then curling back toward her palms. "I don't know."
"Then find out!" Cathy gasped against the pain in her sternum. "Before they do this horrible thing to him, find out! Make them give him the test." She clung to her friend, unwilling, unable to let him go. "You're his sister; you can make them do that."
"But Mom and Dad..."
"Do you want to stay here with him day after day until he dies slowly of thirst? Can you do that?" Cathy blinked stinging eyes.
"No." Anne's tears coated her face. "I think it will kill me, but what can I do? He didn't want to live like this. He left very explicit instructions for what to do if he was ever rendered brain-dead or in a coma he wouldn't recover from."
"I understand. And if he is really ... gone, I will accept it. I'll have to. I'll stay with him for however long he has, doing all I can to give him comfort and ease any..." Cathy had to stop to force the word up past her closed throat. "Any suffering he has. But if he isn't gone, I will fight to save him. I'll do whatever I have to. I know I'll lose because I'm not his family and the doctors and the courts won't listen to me. But I'll try."
"You're his sister! You have the ability to find out for certain whether or not Ethan has any kind of chance." Anger surged, hot and chilling all at one time. No one seemed to care about her teammate, about a man who willingly risked his life to save another. "Can you stand by and let this happen to him and go through the rest of your life not sure if you helped your brother or killed him?" Anne gasped and stumbled back as Cathy pushed on. "I don't know if I could. Find out, Anne. Find out the truth. Then we'll be able to do what's right for Ethan." Cathy bowed her head, unable to bear the burden of being helpless while so great a wrong was perpetuated against him. Slow painful death after all he'd already been through!
A light touch on her shoulder brought her gaze back to Anne. "I'll do it. My parents will have a fit. But I'll do it." The woman swallowed and turned to look at Ethan's sleeping face. "For all he did for me, it's sort of the least I can do for him, isn't it?"
Cathy felt such pity it threatened to wreck her resolve not to break down. "Do it because he's your brother and you love each other, not for a debt you feel you owe."
Anne gave a short nod full of surprise, as if such a thought never occurred to her. "Yes. I ... I need to go talk to his doctors. I ... Thank you." She spun and nearly fled the room.
Cathy let the tears come then. Anne hadn't touched Ethan the whole time she stood beside him. Cathy had noted it for the last month. His family visited, but they didn't touch him or talk to him. She couldn't really understand it. "I won't let you go through this alone, Ethan. I don't know if you can hear me here in this body, but if you can't then I know you can hear me from where you're standing with God. So I want you to know, I'll be with you. I promise." She bowed her head until her forehead rested on his knuckles where she held his hand so tight, sobs finally breaking. "Please, God, help me. And more importantly, help Ethan."
Posted May 7, 2011
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Posted October 18, 2010
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