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The air reeked of hospital dinners when I entered the hallway and headed for the waiting room. I couldn't think of anyone who would be wanting to see me, but as soon as I turned the corner I recognized Sheila, a four-day acquaintance, a co-worker from the savings and loan. A young man stood beside her.

"Hi, Helen!" She flashed that Hollywood smile of hers. "This is my husband, Michael."

"Pleased to meet you." We shook hands.

"We're on the way home from work, and wanted to stop by and see if there was anything you needed." Sheila was a beautiful, young, brown-haired Mormon woman, the ultimate exhibit of good health, and immense with child. If any woman ever glowed in that condition, it was her.

"You wouldn't happen to have a spare toothbrush, would you?" I managed a grin. Sheila had that effect on people—making them smile when she did.

"No, I don't!" She chuckled. "Michael, please would you go downstairs to the pharmacy and get one for her?"

"How are you doing?" She took hold of my hand and we sat down together. "And your husband?"

"Well, I'm managing. Mike's surviving so far. I finally got to see him, about five minutes ago." I winced. "He doesn't look good."

"We didn't mean to interrupt your visit with him, but after the nurse told us he couldn't have visitors other than you, we asked her to let you know we were here. I'm so sorry for what happened. We're praying for you both. So is Ethel and her prayer group."

"Thank you, Sheila. Would you thank Ethel for me too?"

"Of course I will. They're meeting tomorrow morning to pray for Mike. Nine o'clock, I think she said. She wanted you to know that."

Michael came back from downstairs and handed me a small paper bag with a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste in it. I quickly opened my purse to pay him, but he stopped me.

"Everyone at work is concerned about you," Sheila went on. "You'll need some time to deal with this, of course, but we all want you back as soon as you can make it." She smiled again and stood up, as if to leave.

I stood up too. "Thank you. I'll need the job! And I will be back to work as soon as I possibly can. I do appreciate your stopping by."

We exchanged hugs and they left. I watched them disappear, then stepped into the restroom to freshen up before waiting for my next five-minute visit. I was in the midst of refusing an "extra dinner" when I heard a familiar voice say my name. I looked up to see my older brother, Carl, and his wife walking into the waiting room. At last, family!

I jumped to my feet to greet them.

He hugged me. "Mom called us," he said. "Since we were the closest to you, she asked if we would drive up here." So they had, from Southern California. "The folks will be heading down tomorrow," he added. We took a seat and I quietly reviewed the happenings of this day. I was thankful for their company; it helped pass the next few hours.

Their visit didn't calm me enough to sleep, however, even though a nurse had tried to encourage me with a blanket and pillow. I sat. I worried. I thumbed through magazines. I paced the floor. I prayed at Mike's bedside. I stood at the windows, staring into the balmy California night, and I curled up in a chair—but I did not sleep.

It must have been an hour or two after midnight when I felt a nurse's hand on my shoulder. I saw a syringe in her other hand, and assumed she intended to pull the collar of my suit jacket down over my arm and give me a shot. I jerked away from her.

"Stop it! Get away from me!"

"The doctor says I can give you this so you'll get some rest."

"No. I don't want anything."

"But you need to rest."

"No! I'll handle it. I don't want to be knocked out while my husband is in another room fighting for his life."

"Are you sure?"

"I am absolutely sure! Leave me alone. Please."

She did.

Somehow, in spite of the nightly noises that occur within hospital corridors and rooms, I seized occasional moments of sleep.

Morning broke sunny and bright, as perhaps it should on the Saturday before Easter. Freddie's parents were still there, each asleep on a sofa. The thin lady was missing. I took advantage of the early hour to use the restroom, then returned to my overnight chair.

A nurse brought me apple juice and a muffin. I didn't refuse. She told me that Mike had a restful night. Although his lung function was not improving as much as they would like, his vitals remained good. The swelling of the brain had slowed. He remained in a deep sleep.

I was encouraged by the report. "Can I see him now?"

"Give us twenty minutes or so, we're still working with other patients in that room."

"Okay, sure." I checked my wrist watch.

Twenty minutes later, on the dot, I walked into Mike's room. I sat next to his bed and held his hand. Nurses on their morning duty rounds hurried in and out of the room, ignoring me.

Freddie's parents came in and tried to wake their son, the young boy on the other side of the curtain. They stood by his bed and called, "Freddie. Freddie. Wake up!" He did not respond. They continued to call, again and again, until a nurse ended their five minute visit.

I, on the other hand, was not asked to leave for a full forty minutes.

"We have to prep him for surgery now," the nurse announced.

"What surgery? I wasn't told about any surgery."

"The doctors want to realign his fractured jaw."

"Oh, okay. How long will that take?"

"A good two hours, at least. It's an intricate procedure, wiring the bone pieces back into place and so forth. It's scheduled for nine-thirty."

I patted his hand and wished him the best, hoping he could somehow recognize my touch and my voice. I stood outside the doorway as he rolled out at nine-fifteen and disappeared into the far end of the corridor. I resumed my waiting room ritual of sitting, worrying, pacing, praying and staring out the windows. I visited a little with Freddie's parents, and fit a couple of pieces into the jigsaw puzzle.

Shortly after ten o'clock Mike's gurney rolled back into his room. I knew it was way too soon—something must have gone wrong. I hurried down the hall, almost beating the nurse to the doorway, where she stopped me. I had to wait for the doctors to leave his bedside. I stood right next to the opening as they exited, all three of them, and I could hear pieces of their conversation.

"Have you ever seen anything like that?"

"Never. How does that happen?"

"It's nothing short of a miracle! I've seen similar things before."

"Amazing."

As their voices faded away in the corridor, I stuck my head in the doorway. The nurse at Mike's bedside nodded, so I entered.

"What were those doctors talking about? I heard them say something about a miracle? Is Mike OK?"

"Yes." She smiled at me. "He's fine. What happened was when they got him to surgery, an emergency came in. So they put him in the hall while the emergency was handled and the room re-sanitized. Then, when they got him back in there and took the pre-op X-rays, they discovered that the fractures had slipped back into place. Every last one! It happens every so often, and the doctors say it is nothing short of a miracle. They have no other explanation for it."

I was speechless. I was sitting by Mike's bed, trying to process my thoughts and thank God for this miracle, when a nurse interrupted me.

"There's a call for you Helen. You can take it at the nurses' station."

I followed her to the phone and picked up the receiver.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Helen. It's Ethel. How is everything?"

"Oh, Ethel, it's so good to hear from you. Things are looking better. Mike's vitals have been good. He didn't need surgery on his jaw—the fractures somehow realigned themselves."

"That's wonderful. I'm glad to hear it."

"Me, too. Sheila told me your prayer group was meeting this morning for Mike. I want to thank you for that."

"Yes. You're welcome. She called last night and gave me your message. The prayer group didn't get started until nine-fifteen or so. We sat in a circle and held hands, praying for Mike's healing and return to health. We just finished, maybe ten minutes ago. I believe it will have an effect—in God's time."

In God's time. My soul shuddered at the sudden understanding of what I had just witnessed. Tears spilled down my face.

"Oh, Ethel . . ." I blubbered. "It already did."


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