February Before Preseason
“It’s right here.” Dr. Lee Havers pointed to the specific spot on my MRI.
I squinted and tilted my head to the side, trying to spot the anomaly, and saw nothing but my brain.
“The aneurysm is growing, Johannah, and is now considered giant, doubling the chance of rupture. Ignoring it is playing with fire, and I’m positive this is very similar to the same beast that killed your mother.” The urgency in his tone and the throwing of my mother into the mix told me Havers was observing a danger I refused to accept. The aneurysm was on the verge of delivering a knockout punch.
Suddenly, my skin felt foreign and not my own. Beads of perspiration slid down my sides,
and I dug my nails into my thighs to alleviate the stress. My gaze shifted to a magazine sitting on the good doctor’s desk, and I longed to fan myself with it, but I didn’t. I sat there and donned a nonchalant attitude, but my body knew the truth. It continually warned me of headaches, vision issues, and nausea. Ignoring the symptoms set me on a perilous path familiar to my family. This same monster took my beautiful mama and now it wanted to take me, too.
Hannah Thorne Scott died suddenly when her aneurysm ruptured, her demise written by the fates and delivered without mercy. Mama didn’t have a clue what lurked in her brain—but I knew what lurked in mine.
And because this aneurysm was the biggest dick I knew, I decided going forward to call it Richard.
I get that it may seem odd to name
something living in your brain that had the power to kill you, but hey, a little levity went a long way.
Sure, any sane person with my family
history would check into the hospital and have Richard excised from their head, but I chose to ignore the stats on subarachnoid hemorrhages. The averages changed with things like multiple aneurysms and family histories, and I understood that patients with isolated aneurysms were more likely to have them rupture.
None of this was news to me, and still, I held firm to my plan.
I let out a long breath and quit digging my nails into my thigh, the pain quickly dissipating. “Johannah?” Dr. Havers calling my name snapped my attention back to the good doctor. Havers was average in height, looks, and stature. His dark brown hair and horn-rimmed glasses reminded me of an older Harry Potter at the end of the movies. Only his navy scrubs and white lab coat dissuaded me from fantasizing about him whipping out a wand and fixing my brain.
Dr. Havers had his own kind of magic, ranking at the top of his field worldwide. His walls were decorated with degrees and articles praising his pioneering techniques; his credentials were beyond impressive.
Unfortunately, my life wasn’t that
straightforward. It was complicated by a goal that didn’t belong to me, but one I’d chosen to claim as my own anyway.
“I want … I mean, I have to. That is…” A hard swallow followed my rambling words. My vision blurred with incoming, angry tears.
Anger at my inability to get my thoughts out.
Anger at having to deal with Richard.
And anger that I couldn’t confide in my touchstone and protector.
“I’ll wait. Let’s wait.” Speaking my decision aloud dissolved my anger and let my fear move in. I pinched my bottom lip with my thumb and index
finger as my anxiety and anger battled for control within me.
“Are you sure? Maybe you should discuss this with your father—”
“No. Daddy doesn’t need to know about this. He has enough on his plate. I’ll tell him after the season is over. We’ll do the procedure in February,” I said forcefully, my mind made up.
Dr. Havers sat back in his chair and studied me for a minute before clasping his hands in front of him. “I see.”
“You see what?” The anger returned, fueled by the all-knowing look in his hazel eyes. This man knew my family history because he’d been my mama’s doctor as well. At that time, he’d been a younger physician just making his name in neurology.
Times were different now. Mama’s situation was not my situation. I didn’t want Havers, or anyone, second-guessing me or thinking they understood my motives.
“I see a young woman who is putting her father’s football career before her own health. I also see your mother every time I look at you. And…”
He paused, and I saw regret flood him; his shoulders slumped forward on a long sigh. “And you couldn’t save my mother, so you’re going to save me? I’m your do-over? I may look like my mother, but we are very different people.”
“Johannah, Thatcher’s neck injury was substantial, and odds are slim he’ll be able to come back and be one-hundred percent. Even if he avoids injury, by the end of the season, chances are great his physicality will be diminished. The one thing I do know for sure is that he wouldn’t like this. I can’t imagine Thornie or Caroline would be happy about this either. I’m guessing you haven’t told your family, have you? You’re going through this without your father, uncle, or aunt knowing, right?”
I stood up quickly and grabbed my handbag from the chair next to me. My plan to beat a hasty retreat ended when the world began to spin. I stumbled backward, and Dr. Havers rushed to my side.
With his hand on my arm, he steadied me. “Johannah, please.”
“I’m fine,” I snarled as I turned to face him. At least the spinning had stopped, but now my stomach twisted and turned, threatening to release my breakfast.
“You can deny all you want, but your body is sending you a message. If you refuse to listen to me, at least listen to it. If we do it now, we can probably do a coiling instead of the more invasive clipping.” Havers’ gaze searched my own for something; acquiescence, I supposed.
The American Football Alliance was in our blood. It meant everything to our family, and this season might be Daddy’s last chance for a ring. I planned to do everything in my power to help him
get it. If I told him the truth, Daddy would worry about me instead of worrying about ending his career with the Alliance’s biggest honor.
I refused to be the reason he lost that chance. For a long minute, Dr. Havers and I engaged in a silent standoff. He sighed when he realized my stubbornness would win out.
“Remember the drill. Monthly scans and continue with the meds. No smoking. Watch your alcohol intake, get plenty of rest, and manage your stress. If the headaches intensify, or if you start having double vision—”
“Or seizures, drooping eye, loss of
consciousness, nausea, weakness, stiff neck, yada, yada, yada. I know the symptoms.”
Even as I recited them, my hand went to my neck and squeezed. The stiffness was there, but weekly massages helped.
“Just…” Dr. Havers paused and closed his eyes for a long moment. He opened them and said, “The location of the aneurysm concerns me.
Patients presenting with your symptoms have experienced hallucinations. Typically, this is an indication of a more serious outcome. If you start experiencing them, let me know immediately.”
Hallucinations? Like butterflies and puppy dogs, or devils and axe murderers? The first I could handle, but the second would push me over the edge. Just thinking about it made my fingers stretch and spread, contracting the muscles in my hand. I wondered if Mama had seen things that didn’t exist.
“What? Right. Yes. Hallucinations bad. Got it.”
“Please take time to really think about this. I know it’s a lot, but you mean everything to Thatcher. If anything happened to you…”
“It’s going to be fine, I’m sure of it. Dr. Havers, please remember doctor-patient
confidentiality. Not a word to Daddy or anyone else in my family.”
“Not a word.” Though he promised to keep my secret, a part of me wondered if I could trust him.
But for now, I had to. Finding another
doctor meant expanding the number of people who knew, and I might as well install a flashing light above my broken head.
“Thank you, Dr. Havers.” As I left his
office, I thought I heard him say, “Stubborn as her father, and Thatch will kill me.”
True enough. If Daddy found out that Dr. Havers was keeping this from him, he’d be snapping-turtle mad. As I sat in my car, staring into the distance, I had to wonder if Havers had the same ability to see into the future much the way Daddy read the defense each time he stepped up to the line of scrimmage.
Thatcher Scott could see a defensive blitz coming a mile away and would adjust accordingly. He’d call an audible that would change the play on the fly and keep the defense guessing.
Was the blitz coming my way? Was I about to get pummeled into the ground by the entire defensive line without getting a chance to call an audible?
A large knot of dread formed in the pit of my stomach, suggesting this gamble might be my last. But I was all-in, the bet made. All I had to do was survive the season, and hopefully, Daddy would end his career with a Championship. Then, I’d have the procedure, and life would move forward as usual.
Deep inside, I recognized I’d hurt myself today, but the only question was how bad?