Consciousness

Brenna Churchill

A hot summer day. Step out of the house and greeted by your friends. All of the colors of the world are bright.

Lights are flashing blue, red, and white. Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks all around. Her vision is blurred and she can hear her heart beating in her ears. “Where am I? What happened? Where are they? How did I get here?” A sharp pain shoots through her right arm. She can’t lift her left leg and her vision goes in and out. A burning sensation rises in her upper back when she turns her neck. She can’t think, she can’t hear, she can’t speak. It takes all of her strength to lift her left hand into her peripheral vision. She doesn’t see skin; she doesn’t see nails; all she sees is red. Bright red, screaming at her to get up and call for help. A red that should never be outside of her body. A red so unique and vivacious that no other color existed at that moment. A red that, for the rest of her life, would haunt her. The combination of her neck, leg, arm and hand were too much for her to handle. She felt as if she was helplessly drowning. She gasped for air, but nothing came. Her heart seemed to be beating out of her chest. Her ears felt like they were going to explode. Then, all of a sudden, it was quiet. Her heartbeat slowed, her pain ceased, her body went numb. She closed her eyes, and drifted away.

Laughter. Driving down the interstate with friends and the music blasting. Blue skies and green grass. Feel the wind in your hair. Close your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out.

Beep. Beep. Beep. There she lays, her fiery red hair dulled to a pathetic orange. Mangled and undone, her hair seemed not to belong to her, rather, belonging to someone who is less of a misfit than she. Her once glowing skin now painfully white. Her lips, now thin and purple, take the place of ones that were superfluous and full of laughter. Some would say her face was distorted beyond recognition, but the ones that know her best would see that her face still holds the same symmetry it always had. Her smooth nose now broken. A neck brace is wrapped around her like a python. Ugly blues, purples, and reds cover her body. A deep cut on her right arm runs from her tricep down to her wrist.

Open your eyes. Look ahead. See the hills and how the road curves with the land. Flowers. Flowers of all shapes and sizes and colors surround the car. Speed up. Heart beating faster.

The hospital bed on which she lays on is unfit to house such a person. The ominous white walls, old tile floor, and tiny space seem unconventional to hold such a person. The cardiac monitor beside her maintains an unsteady pace. The IV hydration drip is slowly dripping as if to mock whoever’s hooked up to it. The smell of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol fills the stiff air. Echoes of screams haunt the hallways on the other side of the door. Squeaking wheels attached to stretchers speed through the building. Nurses, doctors, paramedics running to the sick and injured. Time quickly goes by, and people come and go. She wouldn’t know, of course, because she is still asleep.

Cardiac Monitor

Jake Riggins

“Where is she? Where is she? I need to know where she is!” He half-screamed, sprinting down the hallway. His head swiveled left to right looking down hallway after hallway, trying to figure out where she is. Physicians, worried families, and patients fly by in a blur. His tunnel vision is the path in front of him. The path, he thought, would lead him to her. A nurse approached him.

“Sir, you need to calm down,” she says patiently, as if she believed it would actually calm the man down.

“I can’t calm down. I need to know where she is!” He shouted at her. She laid a hand on his tense arm to try and regain his focus on her.

“Sir, I can’t help you unless you calm down. Now stop making a fuss and come with me.”

“Fine. I’m calm,” he snapped. “Now, please take me to her.” The two walked down a large tile hall. He needed to see her. He needed to make sure she was okay.

“I’m going to hand you over to Ms. Labella and she’s going to help you find who you’re looking for,” The nurse said, nodding to assure the man that he was in good hands.

“What’s your name?” The old secretary said with a warm smile that meant absolutely nothing to him.

“Jake Riggins,” He said dryly. He strained his neck to see what the secretary was typing, but no such luck. Every tap of the keyboard made Jake more jittery. As if the little keys were mocking his every thought.

“Okay…” the lady behind the desk acknowledged, obviously distracted, “Who are you trying to get to?” She looked up at Jake from behind her spectacles.

“Brenna Churchill,” Jack spat, impatiently waiting for more information. Tap, tap, tap. There go those computer keys again. Jake could see the reflection of the screen in the women’s glasses. He anxiously waited for more information.

“She’s in room 230. It’s down that hall and the fourth door to your right. There’s a doctor in there that will explain what happened,” the woman explained gesturing down the hall to the left. Jake nodded his head in understanding and was on his way. When he got there, there was a tall, dark-haired man that was standing outside of the room.

“Mr. Riggins?” The man said, looking at his clipboard, “I’m Dr. Carver.” The man held out his hand and Jake took it.

“Hi,” Jake simply answered. Then silence. “Ho-how is she?” He asked concerned. His voice was shaky and unsure.

“Well,” The doctor started, “at this point, she’s not doing too well,” Jake’s face fell. “She was in an automobile accident.” Jake felt as if all of the life had been sucked out of him, as if the air in his lungs had just escaped. “The emission of the car got into her body and clung to the walls of her lungs. We had to make an incision in her chest to get the tar out. In addition, there was a fishing rod in the back of her car. When the car came in contact with the other vehicle, the rod punctured her back. If it had gone a centimeter deeper, she would have been paralyzed. When she came in, she had a large gash on her right arm. We put adhesive on it as soon as she came to us, so it slowed the bleeding. The seatbelt she was wearing saved her life. Her friends weren’t so lucky.” Jake was in shock.

“How could this happen? Why did this happen? Why can’t I see Brenna?” He thought. The whole world was falling in on him. The hospital started to spin and he felt his lunch coming back up. He wanted to hit something, scream, yell. Instead, he swallowed hard and continued to listen.

“I give credit to the other driver,” Dr. Carver continued, “She had her phone and called 911 right away. It turns out she was fine and she did the right thing.”

“She did the right thing?” Jake retorted, “She did the right thing? She crashed her car into another car and severely injured the people inside. How is that doing the right thing? She walks away unscathed and leaves four girls almost dead and the world sees her as a hero?” Jake was furious. He was boiling with anger.

“Mr. Riggins, I understand how you feel, but we have to be calm about this. She’s going to need your support,” the doctor replied without moving a muscle. “We transported her to another room so she could be more comfortable. She’s going to have to stay here for a while so we can watch over her.”

“What about the other people that were in the car with her? Are they here too?” Jake asked.

“Mr. Riggins, Brenna was the only one that made it out of the accident.”

Hospital Hallway

Brenna Churchill

Sound. That was the first thing to come back to Brenna. But it wasn’t just one sound, it was hundreds of little sounds. The monotone voice over the loud-speaker was the first voice she heard. The voice spoke quickly, Brenna couldn’t process what it was saying. The sharp, alarming ring of the telephone startled her. The ringing quickly stopped and a young, vivid feminine voice began to speak. Orders were being shouted, names were called, and numbers were given. She found the subtle hum of the florescent lights above her annoying. The only consistent sound Brenna could hear was her own breathing. Her breathing was reassuring, comforting. The repetitive sound soothed her. Everything else she heard was foreign. All of the sounds mixed together so they turned gray in Brenna’s mind.

Touch. That was the second sense that came back to Brenna. The loose hospital gown, the blended feelings of numbness and sharp pain in her right arm. She felt the hypodermic needle under her skin. The stiff, uncomfortable hospital bed that lay beneath her. The only thing she couldn’t feel, was her neck. It took the little strength she had to try and wiggle her fingers; she had no such luck. In fact, she couldn’t move at all. Brenna panicked, “Why can’t I move?” She thought, “what’s wrong with me? Where am I?” Her heart rate sped up, she tried to move her legs and get up but she couldn’t. Her arms weren’t obeying what her brain was telling them to do. “Help!” She wanted to scream, “get me out of here!” Brenna soon gave up. She couldn’t move, and she didn’t know where she was. She felt isolated and excluded from the fast-paced world outside her door. There was a cool draft going back and forth across the room. The breeze blew across her face and danced over her feet as it returned to the other side of the room. Brenna shivered, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable shiver. It was a shiver that let her know that she was still alive; it let her know that she wasn’t alone.

Since the accident, Brenna’s world had been dark. Her eyes have gone unused until now. Slowly, Brenna opened her eyes. She felt as if her eyelids were like doors and her vision was walking through them. Her eyesight was transferred from the dark home it had lived in and entered a new world. The first thing Brenna saw was the ceiling; with it’s acoustic ceiling tilesheld together by metal frames. The rectangular Florescent lights were that stale, white color only found in hospitals and office buildings. Brenna struggled to sit up so she could look elsewhere. She took a panoramic photograph of this unknown world around her. It like she was watching a video of the world she was not in, and as if she was a spectator in her life. Her room was basically empty. Only the necessities filled it: a stale white bed, an IV drip that was connected to her by the arm, and a heart rate monitor (the source of the consistent beeping that had annoyed her before). An old, ugly chair sat in the corner of the room. Through the door, Brenna could see nurses, doctors, stretchers, and patients flying by in a blur. She looked down at her arm and saw a thick bandage wrapped around her arm, staring at her tricep and ending at her wrist. Out of curiosity, Brenna lifted up the white gauze. To her surprise, the cut was clean and stitched up. When she touched it, a stabbing sensation flew up her arm. Brenna winced at the pain. She looked around to see what other marks she had on her body. Brenna found that her nose was wrapped with a hard plastic, and she discovered a brace on her neck. The brace restricted the movement of her neck. Brenna groaned in frustration. A figure appeared in the doorway; it was Jake. “Brenna? Oh my gosh,” he said with a sigh of relief, “are you alright? I was worried sick.”

“I’m sorry,” Brenna said, confused, “but, who are you?”

Patient’s POV

Jake Riggins

Jake’s face fell as the words stumbled out of Brenna’s mouth. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. The Brenna in front of him wasn’t the Brenna that he had grown up with. This girl was a different person in the corpse of Brenna’s body. She even looked different. Her once bright, blue eyes were now dull and lifeless. Her vibrant red hair, now a lackluster orange. Her skin looked dry and stiff. Her freckles that used to populate her smiling face looked like small, dark bruises. In the time Jake was standing on the threshold of the hospital room door, one could have written a novel. He pondered the idea of getting a nurse, but he’d decided against it. Jake could feel his throat tightening up as he struggled to breathe. The tears that were threatening to fall stung the back of his eyeballs. Jake want to step into the room, he wanted to talk to whoever this girl was sitting in front of him, he wanted to sit next to her, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Without another word, Jake rushed out of the room, leaving Brenna with no verification of who he was or why he was there. Jake impatiently looked for somewhere that no one would bother him. He scanned the lobby and sought out the vestibule. “What should I do? What should I say? Where should I go?” The sentences seemed to fly repeatedly past his eyes. When Jake finally caught his breath, he decided to be sanguine about the situation and go back to Brenna. He needs to verify what happened to her and what’s going on because she can’t do it for herself. As Jake makes his way back to Brenna’s room, he tries to figure out what to say. “I’m going to have to introduce myself,” he thinks, deep pain settles in his stomach. The thought of the novice situation is enough to make him nervous. When he reaches the threshold of Brenna’s room Jake takes a deep breath and walks in cautiously. He sees Brenna, laying there fixing the wrinkles in the sheets of her hospital bed. Jake smiles, he remembers how punctilious she always was; not everything about the old Brenna has disappeared.

Jake walks into the room, “Hi Brenna,” he says. The girl looks up at him with an inquiring look.

“Hello,” she says sweetly.

“Brenna, I’m Jake Riggins.” Jake’s voice shook with the fear of not knowing what the girl would say.

“Hi Jake Riggins, it’s nice to meet you,” Brenna said with an empty smile on her face.

Vestibule

Brenna Churchill

“How do you feel, Brenna?” Dr. Carver asks while checking her physical condition. Brenna studies everything he does. He uses a heat thermometer to check her temperature.

“I’m okay, just confused. I don’t recognize anything or anyone. Who are you?” Brenna says weakly. Dr. Carver steps back.

“I’m Dr. Carver. I understand that you are confused. I expected that, considering the type of accident you were in, but I’m here to help you.” The doctor finds a chair and rolls it over to Brenna’s bedside. He sits down and waits for Brenna to say something, but she doesn’t. Dr. Carver continues, “Can you tell me what you remember happening?” Silence swallows the room. Brenna stares blankly ahead and she slips into a trance…

Her friends are with her inside of their car. She can hear here the echoes of their laughter.

Lights flashing blue, red, and white. Police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks surround her.

The noise seems to swallow her hole. She feels like she’s falling backwards-

“Brenna?” Dr. Carver’s voice calls her and she is snapped back to reality.

“What?” Brenna asks, phased by her hallucination.

“It’s vital that you tell me what you remember. I know it’s hard, but you telling me what you remember will help me understand what going on in your brain. Try not to contradict yourself and just tell me what you’re thinking about,” Dr. Carver persisted.

Brenna closes her eyes and tries to remember what happened, “I remember planning to go on somewhere,” Dr. Carver scratches down what Brenna is saying. Jake sits down on the bed next to Brenna. “I was in a car with a bunch of girls, and they were all laughing. We were in the car for a while. I think somethings big was near us, and then there was a big crashing sound.” Brenna opens her eyes to find Jake sitting next to her and Dr. Carver in front of her with a clipboard. She shakes her head, “that’s all I remember. I’m sorry, I probably sound like a lunatic, nothing I’m saying makes any sense.”

“That’s alright,” Dr. Carver says, clicking his pen and putting the clipboard to the side, “you look famished. Do you want some broth in a thermos?”

Brenna nods her head, “That would be great, thank you.” Dr. Carver pulls a small, covered bowl out of his bag and a plastic spoon and hands it to Brenna.” Now, would you like to know why you’re here?” Dr. Carver continued.

“Sure,” Brenna said timidly.

“You were in a car accident.” Brenna turns white. She doesn’t know how to react to this news. Dr. Carver continues, knowing he won’t get a response from either Jake or Brenna, “The person driving you was texting while she was driving. She was distracted her and she ran a red light. The traffic from the other side of the intersection was still movinb, and a work van hit your car. The driver of the van has decided remain incognito.” Dr. Carver paused.

Brenna took a shaky breath, “Are the rest of my friends okay?” She asked cautiously. Secretly, she didn’t want to hear the answer.

“I’m sorry Brenna, but you were the only one to make it out of the accident,” The doctor confirmed. Brenna swallowed hard and tried not to cry. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, but she still didn’t know who to scream at, or who to cry for. Not having control just made her more frustrated than she already was. “Brenna, look at me,” Dr. Carver ordered, “I know this is hard, but you need to calm down.”

Jake took her hand, “It’s going to be okay, just listen to the doctor,” he said calmly.

Dr. Carver glanced at Jake, and then looked back at Brenna, “There was a large gash in your back and left arm, we sewed up both of the cuts. You broke your left leg, and you suffered chronic trauma to your head, that’s what’s causing your amnesia. You also have an altered mental status, which causes confusion and made you go into a coma. Unlike your friends, you were wearing a seatbelt. That was the one thing that saved your life.”

“What’s going to happen to me now?” Brenna asked, concerned and scared. She didn’t know how long she’d been in the hospital, or how long she was going to stay.

“We need to run a few more tests, just to make sure everything is getting better and not getting worse. Once we run them all, you can go home.” Jake smiled. He was relieved that Brenna was okay. He thought that he was never going to see her again, and now, she is being released from the hospital, all in one piece.

Brenna smiled and looked up at Jake, still unbeknownst to who he was. “Let’s go home.”

Jake looked at Brenna, the new Brenna, who needs to be taught how to do everything all over again. He didn’t care; he was up for the challenge. He cared about Brenna and wanted everything to go back to the way it was, no matter what it took. “Ya, let’s go home.”

Don’t Text and Drive

Jake Riggins

After Jake had been told that Brenna could go home with him, Brenna was swept away and taken to another part of the hospital. Brenna went through numerous tests and passed all of them with ease, all of them except the memory test. Brenna couldn’t remember what her address was or how she knew Jake. Her not knowing basic information made the doctors uncomfortable with clearing Brenna to go home. The policy in this hospital was, if a patient failed one of the clearance tests, the doctors had to give another series of trials designed for that “problem area”. They ran more tests on her cerebellum, which is where memory is stored. After the doctors had finished all of the tests, the head doctor walked into the waiting room to meet Jake. He had to talk to Jake about Brenna’s tests and how to proceed. Jake stood immediately; he had been waiting impatiently for over an hour.

“How did the tests go?” He asked, wringing his hands, nervously. The head doctor scanned his clipboard, reviewing his notes.

“Well, she passed most of her tests. There was just one she had trouble with.” He uttered, his eyes still on his clipboard. That wasn’t enough for Jake; he wanted to know more. He felt ignored by the doctor.

“And…?” Jake persisted. He tried to be polite and not hostile, but that was getting him nowhere mad giving him no information. The doctor looked up at him through his no-rim glasses, with an annoyed look.

“And what? What else do you want to know?” He said, obviously irritated. The doctor’s attitude gave Jake an acrid taste in his mouth.

“What’s his problem?” Jake thought, “isn’t this guy supposed to be a doctor? I could do his job better than he can. Who hired him?” Jake assumed this guy was culpable for keeping Brenna for so long.

“Sir, this was supposed to be a brief conversation about Brenna’s tests how to proceed. As of right now, we are not getting that done, and you are wasting my time,” the Doctor huffed. Jake was appalled at how this doctor was acting. Who did he think he was? Doctors are supposed to help people and make their loved ones feel confident in the care of their family. This particular doctor was doing no such thing. He was a repugnant excuse for a physician.

“I want to know how Brenna did on her test, which tests she had trouble with, and when she can go home,” He ordered, counting his requests on his fingers as he went, “I refuse to leave with anything less than knowing the answers to these questions.”

The doctor spoke casually, “I understand your confusion, but-”
 He was cut off by a furious Jake, “I’m not confused, I just want to know what’s going on with Brenna! Are you even listening to me?”

“I am not afraid to have you removed from the building, Sir.” The doctor stated without a thought.

“He probably threw that phrase around all of the time,” Jim thought. “Okay, fine, do you have answers to my questions?” Jim finally inquired.

“Brenna needed to go through some brain tests to make sure everything was working fine. She did well on all but one test. She didn’t do well on her memory test. We are now in the process of running some more tests on her memory to figure out what’s going on. For now, we think she has some amnesia. She isn’t able to remember things like her address, phone number, or birthday. She will be able to go home tonight, but when she leaves, you will need to keep a close eye on her. She also needs to go through physical therapy; I suggest-” That’s all the Jake heard. He didn’t care about the rest of what the crazy doctor was saying, Brenna was finally coming home tonight. That’s all that mattered.

Brain Waves