Home > A Curve in the Road(4)

A Curve in the Road(4)
Author: Julianne MacLean

A little less greedily, I hunt for my cell phone in the usual zippered pocket where I keep it in my purse, but it’s not there. Then I remember that I set it on the passenger seat before pulling out of my mother’s driveway, so I may have to search the accident site in the morning. Who knows where it might have ended up.

I continue to rummage through the box and find Winston’s leash but only one of Zack’s sneakers. At least it’s part of an old, worn-out pair, so he probably won’t care.

Again, what am I thinking? He’ll be overjoyed just to hear I’m alive. He won’t care about sneakers, old or otherwise. And I don’t care about the mess he left in my car. Not today.

In the bottom left corner of the box, I find my cell phone.

Okay, I can be happy about this. It’s my connection to Alan and Zack. I check my text messages, but there are none.

Facebook Messenger. Nothing there either.

Wrestling with my frustration, I pick up the blue plastic lid that belonged to the Tupperware container. There’s no sign of the chicken and vegetables.

In that moment, my mother pulls out her own cell phone and begins to make a call. “I’m trying Alan again,” she says.

“Thank you.”

I continue rifling through the box and find my phone charger, a bunch of junk from the back seat, and the green canvas case from the glove box that contains my vehicle permit and insurance documents. I’m definitely going to need those.

Suddenly I hear music. It’s the familiar, dramatic theme from Star Wars, and I feel an instinctive thrill of joy and relief because I recognize it as Alan’s ringtone.

He must be here at last!

Then I realize that the music is coming from inside the cardboard box on my lap. With a pounding heart, I dig through the rest of the contents, searching for the phone that’s playing his song. I find it at the bottom, under some tattered papers. I pick it up and stare at it in confusion. Did he leave his phone in my car? Is that why he hasn’t been answering?

But no, he didn’t. We spoke earlier in the day, and he hasn’t been in my car since. Everything in this box was picked up from the accident site. They found things on the road.

As I hold it aloft, a wave of panic washes over me, because if Alan’s phone didn’t come from my car, it must have come from the other one involved in the accident.

I turn to look at my mother. She’s distracted, sitting in the chair beside me, waiting for my husband to answer his phone—the very phone that is ringing in my hand. Here and now.


In a flash of movement, without a word to my mother, I leap off the bed and onto the hard floor. Nearly collapsing on buckling knees, I hobble toward the trauma room. I reach the open door and stare.

The driver who nearly killed me tonight is lying intubated and comatose on a bed, fighting to stay alive. He is scarred, bloody, and almost unrecognizable. There is only one nurse at his side—the one who took me for my x-ray. Her name is June.

With a sickening pool of dread forming in my belly, I limp into the room. The smell of alcohol halts me on the spot.

Nurse June sees me approach. She hurries toward me to usher me out. “I’m sorry. You can’t be in here.”

“But . . . I think that’s my husband.” I point at the man on the bed.

Nurse June frowns at me. I can see in her eyes that she’s very concerned as she begins to lead me out of the room. “No, Dr. MacIntyre. This is the driver who collided with you on the highway. Do you remember what happened? Do you know where you are right now?”

I understand that she thinks I’m confused, possibly delusional, and I wish more than anything that I was. But I recognize Alan’s shoes and his plaid shirt in a heap on the table. They must have cut them off him when the paramedics brought him in.

My eyes flood with tears, and my heart squeezes in agony as I fight to slip from her grasp. As I approach the bed, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. This isn’t real. It feels like a nightmare, but I know it isn’t, because I’m awake.

Nurse June tries to take hold of my arm, but I pull away from her. “No. This is my husband. I’m telling you . . . his name is Alan Sedgewick. He’s forty-six years old, and his birthday is August tenth. He’s a doctor.”

June’s eyebrows pull together in a frown as she realizes I may not be suffering from a psychotic episode after all—that what I’m saying is the truth.

“I kept my own name when we got married,” I explain, feeling dazed and nauseated as I lay my hand on Alan’s bare arm.

“We’ve been trying to call his home number,” Nurse June explains.

“But there was no answer,” I finish for her. “Because no one’s home. I’m here, and my son is at a hockey game.”

I’m in such shock over what is happening that my muscles shake.

I glance at the clock. It’s nine fifteen. Zack will answer his phone soon. I can’t imagine how I’m going to explain this to him.

I look down at Alan again—at his bruised and bloody face, the tube snaking down his throat, the IV in his arm. I glance at his legs. His jeans have been cut away to reveal multiple lacerations and bruises.

“There must be some mistake,” I try to rationalize. “One of the paramedics said the other driver was probably DUI, but my husband’s not a drinker. He sometimes has a glass of wine with dinner, but he’s very responsible. He’s a family man. He would never get behind the wheel if he was intoxicated.”

She regards me with compassion and squeezes my shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Dr. MacIntyre. This must be a terrible shock for you.”

I shut my eyes and tip my head back. Tears spill onto my cheeks.

I didn’t see the damage to his car, but I can only imagine what it must have been like if he is this badly injured.

The terror. The shock of losing control at such a high speed. Crashing.

Half of me is devastated and grief-stricken—I can’t bear the thought of my husband suffering in that way, nor the idea of losing him—but the other half is boiling with anger.

How could Alan have done something so stupid as to get behind the wheel of a car if he had been drinking?

And what was he doing on the road to Lunenburg in the first place, when he knew I was on my way back to Halifax? He told me he had to work all day. We were supposed to meet at the hockey rink in time for Zack’s game.

I look at him on the trauma table and want to shake him awake, to demand answers.

Was he trying to find me for some reason? Was there an emergency?

But then why wouldn’t he have just called?

I remember the two police officers sipping coffee in the waiting room, hovering . . . and I know how this works. There are rules and protocols. I know why they’re here.

“Do you know what his blood alcohol level was?” I ask the nurse.

She hesitates and speaks tentatively. “Um, we took a level . . . yes.”

“And what was it?”

Nurse June’s eyes grow wide as saucers. She wets her lips and looks away. “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I’m authorized to reveal that.” She pauses. “You should probably ask the doctor.”

“I’m the patient’s wife,” I tell her firmly. “His next of kin. If there are decisions to be made here—which clearly there are—I need to know the facts.”

Nurse June stares at me uncertainly for a moment, then says, “I’ll get the doctor.” She turns and bolts from the room.

My heart races as I move around the bed on unsteady legs, barely aware of my own physical pain as I check the readings on the monitors and try to determine what I’m dealing with.

Dr. Sanders, who has been a fixture in this hospital for more than thirty years—he put a cast on my broken arm when I was thirteen—walks in and sees me reading the tape from the heart monitor. His cheeks flush red.


I hate that I’m forced to limp toward him and that I have no medical privileges here when all I want to do is to take charge of my husband’s care.

“Why wasn’t this patient sent to the QEII?” I demand to know. “He needs a CAT scan and a full trauma team . . . a neurologist and . . .” I feel sick and dizzy and lose my train of thought, but I quickly fight to regain it. “And what was his blood alcohol level? I heard he was DUI, but I just can’t believe that—”

“We’ve already called for a chopper,” Dr. Sanders cuts in, “but it’s freezing rain out there, and we’ve had some delays. The pilot is doing his best to get here, and we’re doing everything we can to keep your husband stable.”

I swallow hard and struggle to remain calm—which isn’t easy under the circumstances—because this is my husband and I love him desperately, and I still can’t accept that he was driving under the influence.

Information is what I need. “Tell me everything, Dr. Sanders.”

From the other side of the bed, the doctor reveals what he knows. “Your husband was awake when they pulled him out of the wreck, but he lost consciousness just before he arrived at the hospital. His pulse is a bit high, but his blood pressure is okay. As you can see, he’s intubated and has good oxygen levels, but the fact that he hasn’t woken up yet leads me to believe he might have a brain bleed. He needs a CAT scan and to see a neurologist, but we don’t have that level of care here. On the upside, his chest x-ray looks good. C-spine and pelvic x-rays are good too, but he’s got a fractured humerus. Even so, that’s the least of his problems. We haven’t given him anything for pain or sedation . . .” He pauses. “But there might be other things in his bloodstream keeping him sedated.”

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