In a few seconds, V’s snores reverberated in the room. I decided to wait until he was out cold before I went to find some coffee and call Shontae with an update.
“V, can you hear me?” I asked, even though I knew he couldn’t. “I’m going to get some coffee. Be right back.”
Someone at the nurse’s station gave me directions to the cafeteria. I took the elevator down to the hospital’s lower level. Once the doors closed, I exhaled. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the sight that met me when I entered Vaughn’s room. It was a good thing they had him heavily sedated. The Frankenstein contraption rigged above the bed holding his most damaged leg was enough to make the toughest man wet his pants. When his head cleared enough for his curiosity to take over, Vaughn’s reaction was going to be ugly. Six stainless steel rods about twelve inches long appeared to be screwed through the bones to hold his leg in place. Large clamps fastened to the ends of the rods. It resembled something from a torture chamber.
On the phone, Craig said V’s condition was stable, which was most likely what he’d been told by the hospital staff. But what kind of shape did I expect someone who’d just collided with a mountain in a two-seater to be in? Vaughn obviously had no idea yet how severe his injuries were. Would he be able to walk again? And if he could, would he be marked with a limp for the rest of his life? These were surely the questions V would ask when he was no longer under the influence of the painkillers. Hopefully, I’d be nowhere around when that happened.
A secluded spot on the lower level provided the perfect spot to make the call.
“Hi, honey,” Shontae answered. “I’ve been waiting for you to call. Have you seen Vaughn yet?”
I rubbed the tension in my neck. “Baby, it’s worse than I thought. They have one of his legs pinned together with bolts. The other one is in a hard cast. It’s impossible to even tell what kind of condition his face is in, because he’s stitched and bandaged.” I hesitated. “It’s bad.”
“Oh, God. Is he going to be able to walk? What are the doctors saying?”
“The doctor hasn’t been in to see him yet. He’s sleeping right now, compliments of the happy meds.”
“You know Vaughn has no family to help him. Find out what you can from the doctor so you can talk to him when he wakes up.”
“I’ll see what I can get, but I have to be back on set in two days. I won’t be able to oversee his care.”
“He’ll understand, and I know he will appreciate whatever you can do for him.”
Before we ended the call, I promised to let her know what I discussed with the doctor. Shontae was right. V needed me there. He wasn’t normally high strung, but who knows how he’d react to multiple bad news? Someone needed to be there to console him when the time came. Could he make V see that simply surviving an accident of that magnitude was a miracle in itself?
The chair in the corner was empty when I reopened my eyes. Other than that annoying beep of the monitor, silence was my only companion. All I could think of was how, little more than a month ago, I’d topped the list of Ebony magazine’s “50 Finest,” their answer to People’s Caucasian-heavy “Fifty Most Beautiful” list. The photographer who’d done the spread kept raving about my dark complexion, high cheekbones and deep dimples. I was well aware that many of the lists I’d made had nothing to do with my acting skill. And I didn’t care. Being recognized for my physical attributes did more for me than a Golden Globe or Oscar ever could. It kept me on women’s minds all over the country, which was all I needed to seal a hookup every night of the year. Just being a working actor in Hollywood was a major accomplishment. It paid the mortgage on my crib in the LA Grand condos overlooking downtown Los Angeles, my car note, and filled my closets with designer clothes. That was all the honeys were interested in.
Now everything that gave my life meaning was in jeopardy. My ride was wrecked, and since I didn’t have enough clout to give the studio reason to postpone filming until I recovered, most likely I’d be replaced in my current film role. The possibility of losing my looks scared the hell out of me. The more I contemplated how my life was falling apart, the more panicky I became and had to pull in a couple of deep breaths to keep from hyperventilating.
Almost as if he’d been summoned by my near looming panic attack, the elusive doctor appeared. “Good afternoon, Mr. Breland, I’m Dr. Liu.” The middle-aged Asian man pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I performed your surgery. How are you feeling?”
The pounding in my head seemed to drown out his words. “I’m hurting now.”
“On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, how would you rate the pain?”
I groaned again. “About seven.”
“I’d like to discuss your condition,” the doctor went on as if a seven wasn’t worth acknowledging. I should’ve said ten. He glanced in Devon’s direction. “And explain exactly what the surgery accomplished and what your recovery will entail.”
“It’s okay. This is my friend, Devon Burke. He can hear this.”
“Yes, I know,” Dr. Liu smiled and extended his hand. “I’ve seen your work.”
They shook hands then Dr. Liu turned back to me. “Do you remember anything about the accident?” the doctor asked, simultaneously scanning the computer screen.
“Not much. I was on 141 and tried to take a curve. Guess I skidded and lost control.”
“The accident happened closer to Montrose Memorial, Mr. Breland, but you were LifeFlighted here. We’re the only twenty-four-hour, Level Five Trauma Center in the region. If you’re up to it, we can talk about the surgery and where we go from here.”
“Okay. Straight, no chaser.”
“All right.” Dr. Liu pulled a chair alongside the bed and sat. “A combination of the seatbelt and the airbags saved your life, but apparently all your weight came to bear on your left leg on impact. You have a complete compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula, both bones in your lower leg. The force of the crash pushed everything up so that your left hip absorbed the impact, which dislocated the hip and shattered your thighbone. When you were brought in, your foot was facing in the opposite direction. I had to stand over the table and wrestle the hip back into the socket. Your right leg sustained a simple fracture and is in a standard plaster cast.”
What I heard turned my stomach. I swallowed to keep the nausea down. The possibilities momentarily overwhelmed me. What if I ended up with a limp? Who would hire me? If I couldn’t act, what could I do? No way was I going back to selling men’s wear in a retail store. As far back as I could remember, the only thing I wanted to be was an actor. And I’d achieved my dream. It would kill me to go back to punching a clock and dealing with John Q. Public on a daily basis.
Dr. Liu continued. “The surgery took about two and a half hours. A titanium nail was inserted into the left tibia with five screws to secure it in place. I couldn’t put a cast on because there’s a open wound in the side where the broken bones came through the skin.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Devon squirm.
“I couldn’t do a skin graft to close the wound, because you were too low on blood. You were given seven units. The graft will have to be done in the future.”
“Another surgery?” This was turning into a nightmare. When was I going to wake up? My chest tightened, and I struggled to get the words out. “Will I…be able to walk again?”
“Most definitely, Mr. Breland,” Dr. Liu said a little too cheerfully for my taste. “But complete rehabilitation will take some time. Meanwhile, you’ll need to be in traction for about seven weeks.
This guy was tripping. I couldn’t be locked down that long. The idea of any kind of restraints made me crazy. Unless it was to a headboard with padded handcuffs. “You mean, I have to stay in this bed all that time?”
“It’s necessary in order to keep the bones in the right place for them to heal,” he explained in a flat, emotionless manner. “A regimen of physical therapy will start once you’re on crutches. Considering your car rolled over several times, it’s a miracle you have no spinal injuries.”
“Thank God for small favors, huh?”
Dr. Liu met my gaze with no expression. “I’d say so. Yes, Mr. Breland.”
The sarcasm really wasn’t intentional. It just came out as I imagined myself looking like a fly caught in a spider web. This couldn’t be happening. I’d been on my way to work out a deal that could have set me up for life. Now I was shackled to this bed like a prisoner. “What about my face?” I mumbled.
“It sustained damage from the airbag and flying glass. That’s all I know from your chart. One of the surgeons from Plastics will be in to see you shortly.”
“So…,” my stomach clenched. “You’re saying I’ll probably need a third surgery?”
“Possibly. That’s not my area. Do you have any questions for me?”
The fear constricting my throat wouldn’t allow me to speak. I turned to the wall and didn’t answer.
“It could have been much worse, Mr. Breland. I’ll stop in to check on you tomorrow.” The doctor turned toward Devon. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Burke.”
“Likewise.” Devon rose from the chair. “Can I speak with you for a minute?”
“Certainly, let’s go into the hallway.”
He and Dr. Liu left the room.
What have I done to deserve this? The second the thought came to mind, so did the answer, and I had to force away images of different women haranguing me for lying, deceiving them, standing them up, because I had a better offer and any number of other sins.
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop the hot tear from rolling down my face. I was in my prime, way too young to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. And I knew without a doubt I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude of Christopher Reeve or Teddy Pendergrass. If this was what the future had to hold, I’d rather be dead.
You can read the next excerpt here: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com/2012/08/saturday-sneek-peak-4.html