Chapter 17. Yuri : Fear.
“See, fourth and fifth fixed ribs are definitely cracked.” The orthopedist pointed at the x-ray image of my chest on the wall. “They don't break apart though. No bone fragments either. No danger of punctured lungs. I think it's safe to just continue with painkiller to help you breathing easily, Mr. Kwon. These shall be healed in one or two months with proper rest and limited movement.”
“Good. Can I come back to my wife now?”
“You need to take the painkiller first. Also It will still be a while for your CT scan result to come up.” Sooyoung looked worriedly at me. “and your knee-”
“I agreed to come here for chest x-ray. As long as I can still standing, the rest can wait.”
It was easy to see conflict in Sooyoung's eyes. But I had wasted enough time to get through the X-ray procedure only to find out that painkiller and time would help me heal just fine. At this moment, I could still holding up despite the pain.
I knew I have to pay attention to my well-being too. But Jessica was in the OR now, battling for both her life and our daughter's life. I didn't like being one floor away from her. I stood up, heading for the door. Sooyoung stopped me though, wordlessly pointed at the wheelchair the nurse brought to my side. I complied, letting them wheeled me back to the surgery room.
Jessica's parents were already there with Minho. My mother-in-law practically ran to me. She hugged me tight, her tears wet my already soiled shirt. Her sobs broke my heart. I wanted to croak something out, probably a promise or two of how her daughter and her grandchild would be just fine. But I couldn't even muster the power to do anything other than sighing.
My father-in-law awkwardly squeezed my shoulder before getting back to the waiting chair. His head in his hands. We were all devastated. We were all helpless. We could do nothing but sitting here, waiting.
Second after second passed. I had never felt so much resentment toward waiting before. I wished I had enough fortune to trade for life. Sadly, I had to admit that prayer was the only thing I could afford at the moment.
After what seemed like a century YoonA and two other doctors came out of the surgery room. I jumped off the wheelchair, asking her so many questions with my eyes only because words had failed me once more.
“Baby girl Kwon.” YoonA smiled wanly at me, while making way for a nurse that wheeled an incubator out of the room.
Inside the box, I could see the tiniest human being ever. Small, wrinkly, and didn't even made a sound. Wispy black hair, pinkish skin, and closed eyes. Fists so small I couldn't even tell if she had ten fingers or not. There were too many things around and connected to her tiny body. Too many intrusion to her seemingly fragile existence.
I choked back tears.
I had been waiting so long to see my daughter. I had been prayed so many times for her presence. But this heartbreaking image had never once came to my mind before. My hands instinctively reached out for her but the box separated us. I ended up helplessly pressing my palms against the transparent wall of the incubator.
“She's a strong baby, already capable of breathing on her own.”
I looked up at the doctors. I didn't even know that a simple task like breathing on her own was such an accomplishment for a newborn. When I looked down at my baby again, I realized that with every breath she took, our daughter's chest visibly rose and fell. It seemed like she was using every ounce of energy in her frail body just for breathing.
“Can... Can I hold her?”
“We need to take her to the NICU first, sir. After a few initial treatments, you should be able to spend some time with your daughter.”
I watched as they wheeled my daughter away. My feet almost involuntarily followed their steps if my heart wasn't torn between my daughter and my wife. I looked up at the doctors again, asking them a silence question once more.
“The C-Section went fairly well. Despite the blood loss, Jessica Unnie is relatively stable at the moment.” YoonA explained to me.
“There might be other surgeries needed to be done. But we put those on hold until we can asses all the damage the accident has caused.” Another doctor continued. “At the moment, we're about to take her to the neurological ward fur further examinations.”
“Yes. The possibility of spinal cord injury need immediate assessment. We'll tell you more once we got an MRI done.”
Their words didn't really make sense for me but I knew the horrible reality such injury might bring. My mother-in-law sobbed harder by my side. I sat back on the wheelchair in shock, angry because Jessica wasn't safe even after the dangerous cesarean. Feeling hands clasped on my shoulders. I looked up to see Sooyoung smiled weakly at me.
“Your baby has been born safely and the C-section didn't bring more complications to Jessica. We should be grateful at the moment. Let's take this one step at a time, Yuri.”
I rubbed my face, nodding. “Can I see my wife?”
“At this time being, I'm afraid you can only see her as we take her to the neurological ward, Sir.” A doctor supplied.
I nodded again. It was good enough for me. After a while, nurses came out of the surgical room wheeling my wife in a hospital bed. Minho pushed my wheelchair as I held Jessica's hand in mine until we arrived in front of the neurological ward.
I watched as the door closed, separating me from Jessica once more. There were so many uncertainty ahead, so many dreadful possibilities. My head pulsated again as I prayed hard for Jessica's well-being. My vision got blurry.
“Yuri, you okay?” I heard Minho asked me. I gasped for breath, completely aware that something was wrong with me. But then, everything turned dark.
“Jessica!” I woke up in a hospital bed from a nightmare of losing my wife. A dream where she fell of a cliff because I wasn't strong enough to hold her. My breath caught in my throat as the remnant of the horrid imagery left my consciousness.
"Yuri..." A warm hand caressed my head. A comforting touch that strengthen me like a spell. After I blinked to see clearer, a loving gaze came into view.
I cried. I cried like I had never done before. At the look of my mother's face, something in me crumbled. The wall I built so I could stay strong for my wife fell apart in my mother's touch.
“My poor son.” She gathered me in her arms. Her hug was as warm as ever despite her old age. I sobbed, wordlessly screaming my pain out. She said nothing else, just rocking me like she used to do when I was just a little kid.
After a while, I found control again. I stopped crying at once, taking tissues that my mother gently offered to me.
As I scanned the room I caught sight of my father on his wheelchair, looking up at the ceiling, avoiding eye-contact like he always did. We, the Kwon men, weren't supposed to cry. He always taught me that being strong was any man's responsibility. I knew him well enough to see that inside, he cared for me as much as my mother did.
Sooyoung was here too, smiling wanly at me through her glassy eyes while standing next to another doctor.
“Jessica?” I croaked. I didn't know how long I had stayed unconscious. I didn't know if something has happened to her while I was out of this world.
“Still in neurological ward.” Sooyoung said without further explanation. As if Jessica staying in the ward was supposed to comfort me.
“You had mild edema, swelling, to your brain.” Sooyoung then came closer to me, touching the side of my head that had been bandaged neatly.
“We're giving you some medicines to help relieve the swelling right now. So I suggest you stay in bed for the next few hours.” She pointed at the IV line connected to my hand.
“But my wife...”
“She has her parents and Minho. I heard Krystal is on her way too.”
I blew a breath out of my nose. Above anyone else, I was the one who supposed to stay close to my wife. Why couldn't Sooyoung stop being so worried about me?
“You need to take care of yourself too, Yuri.” The good doctor that had been Jessica's friend for so long seemed to read my mind. “There's no point of you worrying about Jessica or your daughter if you end up collapsing and can't be there for them in the long run.”
I felt my mother caressed my hand. No need to look into her eyes to know that she didn't want me to force myself too. I nodded weakly, before slowly falling back onto the mattress.
“Keep me updated though. I want to know everything.”
“Sure. I, myself, will make sure of that.” Sooyoung patted my shoulder. “I took the liberty of performing a thorough scan while you're out of it. Your knee ligament is injured. Try to avoid unnecessary pressure on it.”
I glanced at my left knee. It was bandaged. My designer dress pants were cut short somehow. My mother, probably followed my glance looked up at Sooyoung.
“Can I clean my son up? Get his clothes changed or something.”
“Sure, omonim. The nurses will help you with that.” Sooyoung smiled at my mother. “Don't worry, with enough rest, all Yuri's injuries will heal just fine.”
I looked away. Rather than my injuries, I cared more about my wife and our daughter. Sooyoung was right though. I needed to stay put for a while so I could gain more strength.
“Now if I may excuse myself, I'll go check on Jessica and the baby. I'll come back to you with more news, Yuri. Get some rest so you can stay strong.”
Sooyoung left while a nurse came with a green hospital gown that I stared with disdain. Thankfully, my mother came to my rescue with fresh button up shirt and pants that she had brought from home.
“Thank you, mother.” I whispered when she finished helping me changing clothes.
The strongest woman I knew just smiled at me, plumping the pillows then caressed my head. “Sleep.”
“I can't, mother.”
“Just lie down then, rest.”
I didn't fight her, laying down while inwardly telling myself there was zero chance that I would fall asleep with so many things going on with my wife.
But four hours later, I found myself being shaken lightly by a nurse. I felt a little disoriented but found my focus at the sight of my mother sitting on the couch with my father asleep by her side.
“I'm sorry, Sir. We have to wake you up every four hours to check your head trauma.” The nurse smiled and stood aside as a doctor came to view.
“Do you still feel dizzy? Pain anywhere?” The doctor shone a flashlight into my eyes. I shook my head, whatever they had put into my bloodstream through the IV worked so well on alleviating most of my pain.
The doctor proceeded to check my chest and my knee before letting me go out of the room with an order to come back later. The nurse pushed me in a wheelchair while my mother followed quietly behind. Minho, Sooyoung and Jessica parents were still there in front of the neurological ward when I arrived.
Minho greeted my mother then pushed my wheelchair closer to where Jessica's parents were talking to Sooyoung and two other doctors. Seeing the pained expression on my mother-in-law's face, I knew something was up.
“How's Jessica?”I nearly pushed myself to stand up if Minho didn't put his hands on my shoulders.
The doctors turned, explaining things with words I barely understood. My head spun once more at the weight of their verdict and I turned to Sooyoung for confirmation.
“Did they really say that Jessica will be paralyzed?”
“We were saying-”
“Sooyoung, explaine to me!” I cut the other doctor short. I didn't need another medical term shoved down my throat. I wanted them to guarantee that everything would be fine. That in the end, Jessica would walk out of this unscathed.
Sooyoung folded her arms across her chest, staring down at me. “We can only know for sure after a set of neurological exam is performed when Jessica is awake, Yuri. Her spine is fractured at C7, and there are also two herniated disks, so there's a huge chance-”
“Sooyung!” I screamed. My hands were tight balls of fist now. My body shook with anger and fear. “Just ing tell me if Jessica will wake up and be alright?”
The corridor went silent. My head pounded and I swore my ears were ringing after my own scream.
“It's not as simple as that, Yuri. I'm sorry.” Sooyoung sighed after a while. “Jessica is yet to gain consciousness after the C-section while her sedative is supposed to wear off by now. If her condition is improving the doctors are planning to perform another surgery to asses the damage of the spinal cord as soon as possible. Then another to fix her Tibia, the broken leg.”
Sooyoung hunched in front of me, eyes looking deep into mine. Up and close like this, I could see how tired she was and immediately regretting my outburst a few minutes ago. “It's a long road, Yuri. I'm sorry if we can't ensure you of anything at the moment. We're taking this one step at a time right, proceeding cautiously to keep the damage minimum.”
“I'm sorry.” I looked down. “I just want her to be okay.”
“Mr. Kwon, It might be not much but I can confirm that only one vertebrae is proven fractured.” Another doctor, an older one, came to my side. “And your wife's vital signs are improving as we speak. There are enough reasons to be optimist right now and we need to hold on to them with good spirit.”
I nodded, feeling my mother hand on my shoulder.
“At the moment, your wife is stabilized and the next step to take is performing another surgery. We suggest all the family members to rest for you'll need the strength after.”
“Can we see her?” My mother-in-law croaked. She was being hold by my father-in-law, clearly as scared as me of what was about to come.
“Yes.” The old doctor spoke again. “The nurses will help you get sterilized. One person at a time, please. Also, the time will be short and limited for the safety of the patient herself. My apology.”
“Thank you, doctors” A relieved sigh escaped the old woman. I felt reprimanded by how grateful she seemed to be just by a chance to see her daughter.
“Thank you, doctors. I'm sorry I've been rude.” I rubbed my face, inwardly admitting that I had to compose myself better in the future.
The doctors nodded and left, promising me they would let me know if and when the surgery would be carried out.
“I have to go too, Yuri. I'm sorry.” Sooyoung hugged me. “My kids need me. I'll come back as soon as possible.”
“Thank you so much, Soo. I'm sor-”
“I understand.” She smiled. “Minho is staying until Seunggi come to keep you company. Go see Jessica, send her my regards and tell her that she has to wake up soon. The daughter of her dream is here. The little princess is doing so well, Yul. Go check on her too.”
“I will.” I choked at the thought of our child. Jessica was yet to see the daughter she had been longing for so long. “Thank you so much, Soo. Thank you.”
Sooyoung's smile didn't wither as she bid everyone goodbye, comforting both my mother and Jessica's mother with her kind words.
At the moment, I realized that I should be thankful for not going through this pain alone. I had my family and friends with me.
She looked so frail, so helpless. Even with the oxygen mask on, I could still make out how unusually pale my wife was. Her hair matted to her forehead. Her lips weren't the usual shade of pink they had always been before. Tubes and wires everywhere. Vibrating machine, beeping device, all seemed so foreign around her small motionless frame.
I swallowed back tears, turning my head to the side for the lack of something else to do. The nurses weren't around anymore, probably trying to give me privacy for the few minutes they allowed me to be with the love of my life.
I moved forward. Both of Jessica's hands had IV lines connected to them so I resorted in caressing the tips of her fingers instead. They felt cold. I wished I could do something to keep them warm.
Words ran around in my mind. Pleas for her to wake up and promises I wasn't even sure I could keep. All shorts of sentences mixed, tangled, and weighed my heart. Without even realizing it, drops of tears fell to my cheeks.
I ended up saying nothing up to the point I heard a nurse moved behind me. I turned to look and she gave me a signal to tell me that I had spent the predetermined time.
With a heavy heart, I let go of Jessica's lean fingers. Tears had somehow stopped flowing but the stabbing pain in my heart remain. I took a step back only to come close to the bedside again, finally found it in me to say a few words.
“Jess, our daughter is here.” I whispered as close as possible to her ear. “So pretty, waiting for you to hold her.”
I sighed, feeling my heart shattered into pieces as I leaned in further to gave her forehead a kiss.
“I love you.”
Tears flowed again. I couldn't stop it.
--- tbc ---
Author's note : We'll probably get to meet baby Kwon on the next chapter. I'm open for name suggestion, especially the Korean one. It doesn't matter if the baby will stay long by her father side or not. The little angel still needs a beautiful name, right?
Also, my apology if I got any medical term/condition/details wrong. Feel free to suggest correction. ^^