AN: I considered asking someone to beta this update for me, but I decided, I'd probably never post. So Forgive me. All mistakes are mine. And I'm sure there are plenty.
This was originally posted for the OCSFC #4. My sentence from helen_c - Ryan has a headache; someone offers some TLC.
Previous chapters can be read here.
I don't own the OC or any of its characters.
Ryan stirred when he heard the door scraping against linoleum and the noise of clattering metal. He was relieved that his head wasn’t hurting all that much anymore. The pain he was feeling was almost a fleeting phantom ache. As if the memory of what had been all those hours was lingering. He turned his head to the side and saw Kirsten and Seth sitting in the chairs the nurse had provided for them. Seth’s head was on his mother’s shoulder. His mouth was hanging open just a bit, and he could hear a soft snore. Ryan wondered how long they’d both been out.
Kirsten, on the other hand, was wide awake. She was scrolling through messages on her Blackberry. But the noise of the opening door had pulled her gaze from the tiny screen. Ryan followed her eyes and they rested on a young woman wearing black slacks, a white shirt, and a black vest. It was obviously some sort of uniform. Despite her neat and trimmed appearance, Ryan saw the haggard and tired look on the woman’s face. It reminded him of how his mother would come home after a twelve-hour shift at some thankless, minimum-wage job.
“Ryan Atwood?” The woman glanced at a sheet of paper that she pulled out of her vest pocket.
“Yes,” Kirsten answered for him, before he could find his voice. She smiled, acknowledging that he was up.
“I’m Libby. I’ll be taking Mr. Atwood for his CT Scan.”
“Oh. Of course,” Kirsten said. “You must be from the hospital’s transport service.”
“We call it an escort service, but transport is fine. Escort service sounds like I should be wearing a pretty dress and hanging onto the arm of some rich guy who can’t get a date.”
Ryan grinned. He liked this woman. He noticed Kirsten was suppressing an amused grin. He wondered if she was thinking of her father. That was certainly the image that popped into his mind when Libby spoke.
Libby pushed a wheel chair into the room and put it right along side Ryan’s bed. She started to untangle the tubes attached to the IV poll and fiddled with the railing on Ryan’s bed.
“It’s okay if I come with?” Kirsten asked standing, and pulling her things together. The movement finally woke Seth. He rubbed his eyes, looking around him, obviously disoriented from his brief nap.
“Of course, Mrs. Atwood.” Libby pulled down the rail and brought up the head of the bed, so Ryan would be in a sitting position.
“It’s Mrs. Cohen.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
Kirsten smiled. “It’s okay.” She turned to her son and ordered, “Seth, go tell your dad where to meet us. He should be right outside the emergency room, on the phone. “A client called with an urgent matter.”
Seth opened up his mouth to protest, but Kirsten pre-empted and said, “Now Seth.” Reluctantly, Seth obeyed. Kirsten knew Seth wanted to stay with Ryan, but she needed Sandy to stay in the loop. Eventually, they would all meet up again. For now, it was important that Ryan have an adult with him. Children – even the mostly grown teenagers- needed an adult advocate in a hospital.
As Ryan settled into the chair with Libby’s help, Kirsten smiled at her young charge. He didn’t look quite as pale as he did when they brought him into the ER. Some of the color had returned to his cheeks, but he still looked worn and tired. The tousled hair, and rumpled hospital gown, didn’t help to complete the picture of a healthy teenager.
“How are you feeling?” Kirsten asked Ryan as she followed Libby’s brisk pace to the elevator? “Is the pain still so intense?”
Ryan shook his head, but immediately regretted it. The pain was still there, lurking in the background, waiting for him to make a wrong move. “Not so bad anymore.” His voice was raspy. “I guess the juice worked.” He pointed to the IV pole, letting Kirsten know he meant the fluids and medicines the doctors had pumped into him.
“That’s good. Let’s pray, this is just a really bad scare.”
“That would be nice.” But Ryan knew he had the Atwood luck.
It only took a few minutes to get to the CT Scan room. Kirsten dutifully, though reluctantly agreed to stay right outside the room while they conducted the scan. She squeezed his shoulder and assured him that she would be waiting right outside the room when until the test is over.
“And if you need me to come in, just tell them. I’ll be right here.”
“Thanks, Kirsten. I’ll be fine.”
Libby pushed Ryan into the room. “You have a cool relationship with your stepmom. Most stepparents I see come through the ER don’t seem to be so loving, you know?”
“She’s not my stepmom,” Ryan said automatically.
“Oh. Sorry. I just assumed that with the different last names…”
Ryan sighed. “She’s my foster mom. But yeah, I’m lucky.”
“Well, I better go find the technician. They’re supposed to be here. And I need them to sign off that you arrived here safe and sound.”
When Ryan was left alone, he looked around the large cold room. He wrapped his arms around himself as he noted the white walls, and cabinets and counters that lined the walls. He looked on with interest at the large machine that looked much like a donut or an oversized Lifesaver™. There was a long, narrow bench coming out of the machine. Ryan figured he would have to lie down on the bench while they ran the scan.
The machine was intimidating, and just as he considered walking out of the room to stay with Kirsten, a technician walked in. “Sorry for the delay,” he said. “Are you wearing any metal?” The technician asked, getting right down to business. He scanned Ryan’s attire, noting that he was in a hospital gown. “An earring or a watch?”
Ryan shook his head, but as he glanced down at his wrist and noticed the band, he said, “oh. I guess I should take this off.” He pulled it off and gave it to the technician.
“OK. Then let’s get the test going. You’ll need to be very still. But the scan should only take 20 minutes or so. I’m going to strap you down so that we can maintain your position, but we can hear you, so call out if you need us.”
Ryan’s stomach tied in knots at the thought of being tied down, but he didn’t say anything. He just wanted the test over with.
Noting Ryan’s anxious expression the technician said, “You know. You’re technically a pediatric patient. I can ask your mom to come in with you.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“We’ll give her a led apron to protect herself.”
“No. It’s okay. I’ll be okay.” But he thought it would be comforting to have Kirsten or Sandy waiting at the other end of the machine.
“Are you sure?"
Ryan swallowed his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. “Yeah, I’m sure.”
He got up from the wheelchair and climbed onto the narrow table. He put his arms to his side, as the technician explained and allowed him to loosely Velcro his hands and torso to the bench.
“Stay as still as you can, okay?”
As the technician fiddled with something out of Ryan’s vision, he said, “at least you’re not coughing. I had a patient who was sent in by her doctor for a terrible cough. She couldn’t quite control it, but there I was telling her – try not to cough. She thought I was nuts.”
“Did she cough?”
“Nope. But as soon as the test was over she had a fit.”
“What was wrong with her?”
“Hodgkin’s. The cough was from a mass on her lungs. But I’m sure your scan will be clean as a whistle. Okay,” the technician lightly banged on the metal. “We’re good to go. I’ll be in the other room. There are speakers. Call if you need us.”
Ryan heard the door slam shut and suddenly felt alone and cold. He heard the machine click on and the whir begin, as the table slid him into the donut. He closed his eyes, trying stop seeing the white all around him. He concentrated on his breathing, making sure it was even and steady. He tried to forget that his nose had an itch. That his foot had a twitch. He opened his eyes and studied the white enamel on the machine, but quickly closed them again as the whirring and turning of the machine started to make his head ache. He counted backwards from 100 and then counted forward until 200. He tried to list all the books he had read since moving to Newport and all the differences in his life pre-Newport and post-Newport, and in the midst of his compare and contrast, the machine clicked and pulled him out of the donut hole.
“All done.” The Technician helped Ryan sit up and get off the table. He pointed to the chair and said, “I’ll take you out to your mom. The escort service should be here shortly to take you back to the ER.”
Ryan found that Sandy, Kirsten and Seth were all eagerly waiting for him right outside the CT Scan room. He felt an immense sense of relief as he saw them, as if a weight had been lifted from his chest. He hadn’t realized it would mean so much to see them all eagerly waiting outside of the room with earnest expressions on their faces.
“How are you doing, Ryan?” asked Sandy. He came forward and gave him a quick hug. “Are you in pain? Was the test okay?”
“It wasn’t bad,” answered Ryan, “but I can think of a better way to spend my evening.
Kirsten laughed. “Well, how about tomorrow night we make it a family night? Sandy and I will come home early. We’ll bring in some dinner and movies.”
“Mom, I don’t think Ryan thinks spending the night with the ‘rents is that much of an improvement over a night in the ER or having a brain scan.”
Kirsten huffed, but she did it in such a melodramatic fashion that they all knew she was kidding. “So, let’s get back to the ER and find the doctor.” She looked around, trying to orient herself.
“The technician told me someone from the escort service is supposed to come bring us back.”
“Oh. Okay. So I guess we wait.”
She leaned against the wall, there was nowhere to sit, and she listened as Seth regaled Ryan with details of his school day. Details that Ryan had been too sick to hear before. She was glad that Ryan felt well enough to humor her son.
After ten minutes, she started to pace.
After fifteen she suggested they try and figure out their way back to the ER. Sandy vetoed the idea, saying that it was best to just go with the hospital protocol.
After twenty minutes, he went to seek someone out to find someone from the escort service.
After twenty five a middle-aged gentleman in the familiar uniform arrived to take them back to the ER.
They followed Ryan in his wheelchair, glad that they had waited for the escort, because the path was so convoluted they would have gotten lost in the bowels of the hospital and probably ended up on the geriatric floor. The room Ryan had used earlier was being used and there was no bed available, so Ryan was just left in an inconspicuous corner of the ER.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. I’m going to find someone.” Kirsten started to march over to the nurse’s station when she bumped into the portly Dr. Delaveris.
“Good, Mrs. Cohen, I was looking for you. Is Ryan back from his CT Scan?”
“I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for coming. We just came back, but Ryan finished the scan over an hour ago.” She led him back to her young charge. “They don’t have a bed for him now. I was just looking to find out if we could do something about it.”
“Well, let’s go check on Ryan. Perhaps, he’ll be well enough to send on his way.” The doctor went up to Ryan and studied the boy, causing Ryan to fidget under the intent stare. “You’re looking better,” Dr. Delaveris finally said. He pulled a pen light out of his shirt pocket and looked at Ryan’s eyes. “How does the head feel?”
“Good. Then the meds worked.” He flipped through Ryan’s chart, which he already had in his hand. “Standard meds for a migraine. It’s a good sign that it alleviated the pain. Let’s try and get those scan results, so we can send you on the way home.”
Kirsten drew in a sharp breath. She sincerely hoped this was just a bad migraine, but she had this nagging feeling that it could be worse. And then what? Do they contact Dawn? Notify his father and brother in jail? Would he want them to know? Would he want his friends from his old life around him? The thoughts tumbled over each other, until she forced herself to shake them free. She needed to stay positive for Ryan. She needed to stay focused on the moment.
She moved closer to Sandy and squeezed his hand. He responded in kind, and snaked his other hand to bring Seth just a little closer. She watched Seth inch just a little bit closer to Sandy while letting his other hand casually stay on the back of Ryan’s wheel chair. They stood there together, for what seemed like hours, waiting for the doctor to arrive.
Kirsten was stiff from keeping her body so still, when finally she saw Dr. Delaveris approach with the ER doctor. They walked together, heads bent over some papers, but they looked at ease. She felt herself expel a breath, hoping that it meant good news.
“Kirsten, Ryan, the CT Scan is clean,” Dr. Delaveris said.
“Thank G-d,” she whispered, while squeezing Sandy’s hand so hard she was sure that his fingers would lose feeling. “It shows nothing? There’s no bleed? Or tumor? This was just a migraine?”
“It appears to be so,” said Dr. Christy. “It’s hard to know with these things, but headaches are tricky. They can be brought on for so many reasons. And sometimes migraines run in the family. Right now, I suggest you all go home and get a good night’s sleep. Or whatever is left of the night. Keep in touch with Dr. Delaveris and I’m going to write down the name of a couple of clinics in the area that specialize in migraines. If this happens again, they can help Ryan learn how to cope.”
“This could happen again?” Ryan’s eyes grew wide like saucers. He just couldn’t imagine going through the pain again. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before. Not even the worse beatings he had suffered had been as bad as his experience this afternoon.
“And Ryan,” Dr. Delaveris admonished, “at sixteen, you’re still growing. You need to eat a balanced breakfast. Make sure to include lots of vitamins and minerals into your diet. Consider vitamin supplements. Eating healthy and drinking plenty of fluids should help ward off the headaches. Because I can’t rule out that this was brought on from a lack of nutrition and too much exertion.”
“Good. Then we’re going to draw up the papers and send you on the way. I’ll send a nurse over to take out your IV and then you can go get dressed. We’ll hopefully have you out of here in the next fifteen minutes.”
The doctors shook Sandy and Kirsten’s hand and patted Ryan’s shoulder, walking away, gratified that they had all dodged the bullet. No one wanted to see a young patient diagnosed with a potentially life threatening disease.
“So, Ryan. Do you think Nurse Amanda will come take out the needle?” Seth asked. “She was kind of hot.”
“I’m going to tell Summer you said that,” Ryan said with a smirk on his face. He felt weak, but relieved.
“Summer! Oh. I better call her and her dad and tell them the good news.”
Seth ran off, leaving Sandy and Kirsten alone with Ryan.
“We’re glad you’re okay, kid. You had us scared.”
“I know. But thanks, for you know. Caring and taking care of things.” Ryan cast his eyes down, intently studying the needle in his arm. “I’ve been to the ER more than once before and this is the first time, I didn’t feel alone.”
“Well, kid, you’re not alone anymore. You have us,” Sandy said, firmly clamping his hand down on Ryan’s shoulder.
(Though a short epilogue may follow)