For a long time, there were voices—intermittent, subdued women’s voices. Then he opened his eyes and they stopped.
Lights. Overhead fluorescents . . . persistent rays from a pen light . . . He remembered something about blinding lights . . .
Three nurses were watching him. He glanced from one to the other and read amazement in their faces. “We thought we’d lost you,” one said. After an awkward silence, they filed from the small, cluttered room.
With his free hand he felt his bandaged face and head. A wave of pain and nausea swept him and never fully ebbed. What was he doing here? What the hell happened?
He focused on another mystery: the pulsating machine connected to his chest and right leg by blood-bearing tubes. Dismayed, he tried not to panic. With a new cab to pay for, he sure didn’t need a lay-up in the hospital. Some stiffs were born to lose . . . Then recalling the nurses’ faces, he thought he was probably lucky to be alive.
It was coming back now. Driving alone on the interstate . . . lashing rain . . . headlights . . . As the truck bore down on him, he realized with icy terror that he was on the wrong side of a divided highway. Blinding lights . . . blackness . . .
Now a man in clinical blues stood over him. Nurses hovered. Below the blue cap, the man’s brow was furrowed, his eyes intense, anxious. He placed a stethoscope in his ears and pressed the cold disk to flesh.
“How bad, doc?” The words had come forth in a hollow whisper.
Frowning, the doctor moved the disk. “Don’t talk.”
“But them gizmos?” The maze of pumps, tubes, and cascading blood, like something out of Frankenstein, must be a heart-lung machine. Really heavy duty!
“You were gravely injured,” said the doctor in strained tones. “We did some transplanting.”
He steeled himself to hear more.
The doctor peered at the panels of lights and moving lines. “There were a number of organs involved,” he said, obviously avoiding his gaze. “Liver, spleen, kidneys . . .”
“Heart,” he went on.
“Heart! Hey, doc, gimme a break!”
“You were fifty-two hours in coma,” was the anguished retort. “No vital signs—”
“But—but you fixed me up, doc. You gave me all them parts.”
A moment passed.
“Took them,” the doctor said.