By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/8/2020
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Chapter 5 of 'Words Apart': A Novel of Language and what makes us human.

Decker's head throbbed and he was nauseated. His neck ached and it hurt to sign. Making matters worse, it was now rush hour and the subway car was packed. River could only express her concern by sitting on his lap, which didn't make him feel any better, though in a way it did. Forrest stood gravely at his side. Even Carole was solicitous, in her way.

"I've already called Doctor Madison," she signed, "while you were in that clinic thing. I can only pray you were seen by a nurse and not a veterinarian. What kind of visitor gets sick at the Zoo?" She wiped at the air as if she were holding an eraser and signed, "Never mind. You can't help getting sick. Though it was terrible timing. You frightened the children half to death. And I'm a wreck. But I'll get through this. We'll meet Doctor Madison at the hospital as soon as I can drive there. Thank God the bridge club is meeting tomorrow night."

Forrest monitored the stations as they passed each one and made sure his father rose in time to exit at Vienna. Carole made them all wait by the entrance to the station while she got the Expedition from the parking lot. Then she made Decker sit in the back seat while she drove to the hospital. Decker wasn't sure why but felt too shitty to ask for an explanation.

The admitting nurse at the emergency room desk was expecting him and only allowed Carole t accompany him when Carole explained Decker was Deaf. They were shown into a cubicle containing a TV and a bed and Decker was given one of those preposterous half-gowns, which he ignored.

In less than five minutes, the doctor came in and greeted both of them in ASL.

Mike Madison was a Deaf doctor whom Carole had found when she and Decker first got married. While Mike specialized in issues involving deafness, he was a general practitioner and even dabbled in a little chiropractic on the side. When Carole explained that Decker had gotten faint and fallen on a concrete floor, Mike examined his neck, told him to relax, and gave a sudden twist! Instantly the nausea and the pain in his neck disappeared, leaving only a dull throbbing where he'd actually hit his head.

Mike then repeated the tests the nurse had run at the Zoo to make sure Decker didn't have a concussion: Examined his pupils to be sure one wasn't more dilated than the other, had him squeeze the doctor's fingers to make sure one side wasn't stronger than the other, and so on.

"You're clear," Mike announced presently, "as far as a concussion goes. But then we have to find out why you passed out in the first place."

"I passed out because I hit my head on the floor," Decker explained.

"No," Mike corrected. "You hit your head on the floor because you were passing out. You might have just been hungry or thirsty or tired. But we have to rule out a mini-stroke, which is why I want you to get an MRI tonight. It's probably nothing. but if youdid have a stroke, we'll have to keep you here and put you on blood-thinning medication immediately."

"I did not have a stroke!" Decker protested. "I'm only 34!"

Mike laughed. "That makes no difference. Strokes can hit anyone."

Decker shook his head. "Look, Mike, this has been one hell of a day. I just can't do this." When Mike began to sign, Decker interrupted him. "Look, here's what I'll do. Tomorrow I'll get an MRI; and if I did have a stroke, I'll go on into the hospital. But I have some things I have to tie up this week and if you want me to have a stroke, go ahead and lock me up somewhere where all I'll do is fret over not having taken care of them."

Mike shook his head. "I hate having lawyers for patients. You are the only people who think you can negotiate your way out of being sick." He sighed. "If it was a stroke, not getting immediate treatment could mean the difference between life and death, literally. Or, worse, a normal life and spending the rest of yours in a coma or paralyzed. So you wait here, and they'll take you to get your MRI, and I'll be waiting to see the results along with the staff neurologist, and I'll get you home as soon as I can safely do so."

Decker's mouth set in a straight line, but he nodded as slightly as he could manage.

"And one more thing, Decker—put on that gown. They can't do the MRI until you do."