The Two Crosses
Grant Townsend sat restlessly in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Hospital. Every person that walked passed him he expected to approach concerning his interest in the woman who had been hit by the minivan.
The last place Grant expected to be on the 23rd of December was sitting in a hospital. He had attended the scene of a two-car accident and was helped to aid a badly injured woman struck by one of the vehicles.
He had the woman’s dog in his car and wanted to see to his care but more importantly, had the woman survived.
After a two hour wait a woman wearing nurse’s scrubs and obviously well pregnant, approached him, “Excuse me, are you, Mr. Townsend?”
“Yes I am,” he replied standing to greet her. He noticed her eyes were obviously red from crying.
“I’m Ellen Armstrong, Jennifer McDermott is my mother,” she said offering her hand.
“Hi Ellen, I’m Grant Townsend, I helped give your mom first aid at the accident scene. I was wondering and hoping she was able to survive. After the ambulance left, I found her dog and luckily he’s uninjured. I brought him with me to give to a family member.”
Ellen’s arms encircled his chest, temporarily pinning his arms to his sides, “Thank you, thank you so much, Mr. Townsend, you saved my mom’s life!” she offered, wiping away another tear. She’s alive recovering in the Intensive Care Ward.”
“Is she ... expected to ... recover?” he hesitated to ask.
“Yes, thanks to you.”
“I wasn’t the only one who helped her.”
“But you’re the only one who took the time to come here and ask about her condition,” she looked up to his head advantage in height.
“I know I’m not a family member but it would greatly ease my mind if I could see her even for just a few minutes. I have to see her with my own eyes to know that’s she’s okay.”
“I’ll make sure you can. Luckily, I work here at the hospital in the Maternity Ward,” she tried to smile, rubbing her baby bump, “Please, follow me.”
“When are you due?” he enquired walking beside her.
“I’m due about the end of February. My son, Tom is five and doesn’t remember his Grandpa. My dad died three years ago in a car accident. Actually, today’s the third anniversary of his death. I would have been lost if my baby had to grow up never knowing its Grandmother too.
“That’s so sad, dying is bad enough then for it to happen just days before Christmas makes it even worse. I know the feeling. I also lost my wife just before Christmas three years ago.”
Ellen escorted Grant into the open-walled room. Tubes and wires ran to and from her body replenishing her body with liquids and monitoring her vital signs. He looked at her face scratches on her right temple and cheekbone. He noticed a cast on her right wrist, likely broken. She had two small tubes feeding oxygen to her lungs through her nostrils.
“What are her injuries?”
“She suffered a broken right hip, several broken ribs, a broken right wrist from the impact of the van and a concussion, likely from hitting the ground. The paramedics told me you found her with no pulse and not breathing?”
“I guess the impact of the van plus hitting the ground may have knocked her out and remaining on her back and swallowed her tongue?”
“She didn’t actually swallow her tongue but with her throat muscles so relaxed, it fell back far enough to cut off her breathing.”
“I had to watch her leave in the ambulance and hoped I’d done enough. At least we gave her a fighting chance.”
“The paramedics said you did everything right,” she recalled as they entered the room.
“That’s hard to believe. I was so nervous I couldn’t tell if she had a pulse or not from my own beating so fast. Has she regained consciousness at all?”
“She’s in and out from the operation. She should hopefully wake up soon.”
Grant’s left hand rested on the bed sheet, “Is it okay if I touch her hand?”
“Of course you can,” she offered as she went to the other side of her bed.
He gently covered her frail looking hand with his and she suddenly jerked, making him react too. Jennifer’s eyes fluttered and partially opened. She seemed to look at Grant, trying to focus then they closed again.
“I drive a transit bus for the city and would see your mom almost every day when she was walking her dog. We’d exchange waves and smiles. I nicknamed her Doris because she reminds me so much of the actress Doris Day. Actually, the highlight of my working day was seeing her smile and wave to me.”
“Yes, she’d been compared to her quite often. I remember her mentioning a bus driver who’d always wave to her. She must have been talking about you.”
Jennifer quietly moaned and groaned, slightly moving her head side to side.
“After the ambulance headed towards the hospital, I began to look for her dog. I knew she wouldn’t be walking without him and found him cold and huddling in the dark beside the variety store. At first, he didn’t want to come to me until I waved the woman’s hat near him to smell her scent.”
“Max is normally a very friendly dog and must have been very scared. Thank you for finding him.”
Ellen’s pager beeped and she looked at the screen. “I’m being paged back to work. The maternity ward is very busy tonight. The staff has joked that it was about nine months ago that we had that big power outage and would likely see a spike in baby births around Christmas time. There isn’t very much I can do for Mom right now, except worry. I’m needed back at work. I’ll call the Nurse’s Station every so often to check up on her.”
“If I’m allowed, I’d be more than happy to stay with her and keep an eye on her.”
“I appreciate the gesture but you don’t have to do that.”
“I have no one at home waiting for me and would only sit there wondering about her condition too.”
“Thank you for your generosity. It’s very much appreciated.”
“I’ll just go and check on Max and come right back. Do you want to take him home with you after work?”
“My husband and I live in a, no pets allowed apartment, so I’ll have to make other arrangements.”
“I know the SPCA could take care of him. I’m off work now from Christmas until after New Years and I don’t mind taking care of him. At least he’d be in a home environment.”
“Thank you I’d appreciate that very much and so would Mom.”
“I also had a Black Lab named Max. He would be good company for me too until you make other arrangements or your mom is able to take him.”
“Thank you again for your generosity,” Ellen said hugging him again then returned to work.
Grant hurried to his car and took Max for a short walk to do his business and comfort him. He cuddled on the blanket with Jennifer’s scented wool cap and one mitt between his paws. “Jennifer is alive Max, I’ll try to find a way for you to see her,” and hesitantly wagging his tail, seeming to understand him.
Grant returned to Jennifer’s room and pulled the chair up close to her bed. He leaned, looking at her. He couldn’t help lifting several stray strands of her golden hair from her forehead. A bandage covered a cut on her forehead and her cheek was red from being scrapped on the hard snowy ground.
Grant doesn’t have any reason to visit the hospital very often. He wondered why the fluorescent lighting seemed to make people’s skin look so pale. Grant touched her left hand again and this time as she stirred, she gripped his fingers to hers.
Her eyes fluttered again as she moaned, becoming semi-conscious. Grant leaned to her, his hand covered hers holding his fingers, “Can you understand me?” He asked and she barely nodded. “You were hit by a car and have suffered a few broken bones but you’re going to be alright. Your daughter is here working and I’m staying with you for the night. Max is okay. He didn’t get hurt in the accident. He’s asleep in my car.”
“Thank ... you. Who ... who are... ,” she barely managed to utter and her eyes closed again. Grant had to look at the numbers on the machine hoping they weren’t going to fall to zero. He sat on the chair, his gaze rarely leaving her.
He looked to the woman on the bed before him. The streetlights at the accident scene did little to show her features and now he observed her closer. He remembered from her walking Max all times of the year that she was a slender built woman, maybe five foot three or four if he was to guess. Her soft skin looked flawless with slight laugh lines at the corners of her eyes.
Short blonde hair that never touched her shoulders looked messy, out of place from her ordeal. She had a cute button nose and slim lips with finely shaped eyebrows.
He felt compelled to hold her hand and he interlocked thumbs with their lefts. Grant noticed her perfectly manicured nails, likely painted red for Christmas. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and felt her’s twitched the odd time.
It didn’t matter to him if she could hear him or not as he spoke softly reassuring her she was okay and so was Max. Ellen returned at the end of her shift and smiled seeing him asleep with her mom’s hand in his grasp. She woke him, saying she would stay with her now and he could go home. She thanked him once again and he left.
A moment later Grant returned to her side. “I’d prefer if I could stay a while longer,” he offered and she accepted his generosity. During his stay, he called his daughter, Cathy to tell her what had happened and his involvement in saving the woman’s life.
“She likely won’t be fully awake until morning. If you want to go home to get some rest you can come back later in the morning,” Ellen offered.
“Thank you, I’d like to very much! I am pretty tired from tonight and I want to make sure Max is alright too,” Grant stood, offering his hand to Ellen. She surprised him with a generous hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you again for saving my mom’s life.”
“I’m glad I was at the right place at the right time.”
On the way home, Grant had to drive passed the very same intersection and only those involved would know the importance this place held in the lives of several families. He then took Max for a short walk and introduced him to his temporary home.
Max was curious of his new surroundings and it took some food and water to help settle his uneasiness. Grant then took the time to closely examine him for any injuries. He was no vet but Max seemed in excellent health and belonging to Jennifer, it was no surprise. He soon discovered Max was quite smart and knew several obedience tricks that brought praise and laughter from him.
He made a place for him beside his bed, letting Max smell Jennifer’s scented hat and mitt. He whimpered and whined, missing his love and though tired, remained restless. Grant hated to see and hear him suffering and eventually coaxed him onto the bed.
With Grant’s arm around Max’s chest, they soon fell asleep.