The paramedic rattled off Brian’s condition as Justin ran alongside his bed while they wheeled him into the hospital’s busy emergency department.
“Patient’s name is Brian Kinney.”
“Tell me what you have,” the doctor ordered, meeting them in the corridor.
“Male, 34 years of age, with severe lacerations to both eyes. 2.5mg of Valium was administered approximately ten minutes ago due to high levels of stress. He has high blood pressure at 160 over 120; his oxygen level is 89 percent but steadily increasing.”
“Do you know what caused the injuries?” The doctor asked, making notes as he walked.
The doctor nodded as Brian was wheeled into a room, where a nurse and another doctor were already waiting for them.
“I’m going to take a look at your eyes now, Brian, okay?” the doctor explained, as he took a small torch out of his pocket.
Brian flinched as the bright light was shone directly into his left eye.
“God!” Brian groaned. His face had turned a deathly white and his eyes felt as though they were being doused in acid. He wanted nothing more than to close them, but they were being pried open by the doctor examining him.
“I’m sorry,” the doctor apologized, as he moved quickly onto the other eye. “I know you’re in a lot of pain right now.” He stopped what he was doing and spoke softly to the nurse assisting him. “Give him 10mg of Morphine intravenously, and as soon as that’s kicked in, you can remove the restraints.”
The nurse nodded.
“Sluggish pupil reaction on the left, but he is reacting to light somewhat. No reaction or pupil changes on the right.”
Justin could only watch as the nurse standing next to him wrote the results down furiously.
What the fuck did all that mean?
The doctor looked up and spoke to Justin directly, “We’re going to need to get an ophthalmology surgeon down here ASAP to take a look at him.”
Justin stepped forward and asked quietly. “Do you know what’s wrong?”
“I’m afraid I can’t say for sure, as I am not a qualified Opthomologist, but I can tell you that he’s definitely going to need surgery.”
“Surg...,” Brian started to mumble sleepily, the pain medication already having begun to kick in.
“Yeah, Brian. It looks like you’re going to need surgery, but you’re going to be fine, okay?” Justin told him gently, as he ran his hand through Brian’s damp and matted hair.
“Ashley, can you page Doctor Lebowitz and ask him to get down here as soon as he can?”
“I’ll go and do that right now,” Ashley said.
“I’ll be back into see you as soon as Doctor Lebowitz gets here,” the doctor smiled sympathetically at Justin before leaving the room.
The intense pain in Brian’s eyes had eased greatly thanks to the high dose of Morphine they’d given him, his body was now relaxed and sleepy - but the pain medication had done little to dull the thoughts racing through his brain. He turned his head as though he was looking at Justin.
“Sc-scared,” Brian stuttered under his breath, the drugs bringing his guard down just a little.
Justin leaned forward, their noses touching. “I know, but you’ll be fine,” he said softly as he placed a kiss on Brian’s dry, chapped lips.
Luckily, the wait wasn’t long. Doctor Lebovitz first introduced himself to Brian, placing his hand gently on his shoulder as he spoke to him.
“Alright, Brian. Let’s have a quick look at your eyes.”
Doctor Lebovitz repeated the examinations done by the previous doctor.
“Alright, Brian. I’m going to need to sit you up, okay?” Doctor Lebovitz explained as he slowly raised the bed to a sitting position.
“From the looks of it, you have a full thickness laceration in your right eye,” he explained. “It looks like the laceration was deep enough to have cut completely through your cornea, causing your globe to rupture. It also looks like your retina has ruptured. Both of these things need to be operated on tonight to prevent any further damage.”
Justin just nodded his head.
“The left eye looks a little better. There is a fairly large corneal abrasion, which is usually treated with antibiotics, but you seem to have some fluid leaking through a small tear into your retina, which we need to get in and repair to prevent it from detaching also.”
“I don’t really understand what much of that means,” Justin replied slightly agitatedly.
“I understand this is a lot of information to take in right now.”
Justin glanced quickly over at Brian who seemed to be dozing. “Will the surgery take long?”
“A couple of hours,” Doctor Lebovitz informed him, “Maybe more, maybe less. It all depends on whether any complications arise during the operation. But this procedure needs to be done immediately. They’ll be in shortly to prep him for the O.R.”
Before the doctor left the room, he placed an eye shield over Brian’s right eye. “Try and keep your eyes as still as possible.”
“‘M’kay,” Brian mumbled sleepily as he drifted off into a restless slumber. The morphine having worked it’s magic and taken most of the pain away, but the adrenaline still coursing through his body made it difficult for him to relax.
Ashley came back into the room a few minutes later followed by a man in scrubs.
“Brian,” she touched his hair gently but spoke mostly to Justin. “This is Phil, he’s the anesthesiologist.”
Justin nodded his head in greeting.
“Phil, this is Justin, Brian’s partner and medical power of attorney. Justin, Phil would like to ask you a quick couple of questions before we take Brian down. Is that okay?”
Phil shook Justin’s hand. “I’ll only be a minute. Does Brian currently smoke or have a history of smoking?”
“He still smokes,” Justin confirmed
Phil checked off something on his chart, “Has he experienced any difficulties with past anesthetics?”
“No… not that I know of.”
“Any previous medical conditions or details you think may be relevant?” Phil went on.
“He had testicular cancer last year. And h-he does drugs recreationally, mainly E. He smokes marijuana. Fuck, he’s not going to get in any legal trouble because I said that, is he? I don’t think he did anything tonight-” Justin started to ramble from the panic setting in.
“Justin, it’s alright. Don’t worry about it. Brian’s not going to be in any kind of legal trouble.”
Justin looked away and nodded, before biting his lip.
“Take care of him, okay?”
Phil put a hand on his arm, “We will.”
The moment was quickly over as Phil started to prep Brian to be rolled out of the room, “Okay, that’s all we need. They’re ready for him in the OR.”
Justin went to Brian’s side and grabbed his hand, “You’re going to be alright, Brian. Okay? I’m...When you wake up, I’m going to take care of you. I’ll be there every step of the way.”
It was dark.
That was Brian’s first thought as he felt himself come to. The loft was never this dark in the mornings - the sun always shone brightly through the windows and cast their bed in some sort of light, depending on the time. Had Justin shut the blinds before they went to bed? Had he fallen asleep with his eye mask on?
“Justin?” he called out raspily.
“Justin’s not here, sweetheart,” the OR nurse explained quietly.
He tried to open his eyes and look around, but the overpowering darkness was still there. “Wha-what’s happening” He asked, as he attempted to lift his arms and bring his hands up to his eyes so that he could see what the fuck was going on. He pulled again and what felt like belts holding his arms down.
“What’s happening?” Brian stressed, raising his voice more.
“Brian, do you know where you are?”
The nurse rubbed Brian’s arm gently as she tried to calm him down, “Brian, can you hear me? You need to try and relax, okay?”
“Don’t tell me to fucking relax! Where’s Justin? And why can’t I move my fucking arms?”
The nurse ignored his agitation as she continued on softly, “We’ve had to restrain you to stop you from pulling out your IV’s and touching the dressings on your eyes.”
“Untie me, now.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t do that. It won’t be much longer, I promise.”
Brian pulled roughly at the restraints and managed to dislodge one of his IV’s in the process. “I said, untie me.”
“We don’t usually allow family into recovery,” the nurse explained as she plugged Brian’s IV back in. “But I will send someone to get Justin, if that would help calm you down. He’s right out in the waiting room. Do you know where you are?”
Brian swallowed and tried to think back. Fuck, he was so confused right now. He couldn’t figure out shit.
“You’re in recovery, Mr. Kinney. You’ve had surgery. The doctor will be here in a few moments to come speak to you.”
“Where’s Justin?” Brian couldn’t help but ask, “Where’s Michael? Where’s-”
“Justin will be here with you soon. He’s been waiting for hours to see you. Now, I’m putting a button in your hand. You press that if you need anything, alright? It shouldn’t be too long. We have almost all of the staff working tonight.”
Brian could only hear her walk away as well as the heart monitor beeping slightly faster once he realized he was alone. He couldn’t see a damn thing. All he knew was that his left eye felt runny and the right one even more so. They felt like they were melting and running out of his fucking skull. He pulled at the straps once more, even though he knew doing so was useless. Why was he not remembering anything? What happened? What-
Brian bit his lip as his eyes became more painful and started to water. He knew that voice.
“Justin,” he choked out, trying to lean forward, only to feel rolling waves of nausea, “Justin, come’ere. What’s going on?”
Brian heard Justin’s steps get louder as the younger man made his way towards him. He felt Justin’s finger run through his hair and Brian leaned into the touch.
“Do you not remember anything?” Justin asked softly, voice wobbling, “The...Brian, the bombing? Your...your eyes?”
Brian drew a blank for a few seconds before the images of smoke and carnage invaded his mind which, if anything, made his nausea even worse. Brian tried to breathe through his nose evenly to calm himself down but it was like he was back there and he couldn’t focus on shit because he couldn’t see shit. If he could just take whatever was over his eyes off, see Justin’s face-
“Mr. Kinney?” a deeper voice called out, making Brian jump a little.
“Brian, this is Doctor Lebowitz,” Justin told him, sounding stuffy, “He’s the one who conducted your surgery. You had surgery on your eyes, remember?”
“Mr. Kinney, the lacerations in-”
“Were you hurt?” Brian asked suddenly, turning his head in what he’s sure is Justin’s direction, “Justin, were you hurt?”
“Just some scratches,” Justin rasped out, gently touching Brian’s cheek to turn his head in the opposite direction. Justin then reached down to touch Brian’s hand once more. Brian wiggled his fingers and Justin took the hint and interlaced them with his own.
Doctor Lebowitz cleared his throat and went and stood next to Brian. “Mr. Kinney. I have spoken to Justin and explained the situation. Unfortunately, we were unable to save your right eye. The shrapnel from the explosion caused much more damage than we originally thought, affecting not only your cornea, but also your optic nerve, which we were unable to detect until we operated. This is called Traumatic Optic Neuropathy. I understand this is a lot to take in, but do you have any questions before I continue?”
Brian remained silent. He had so many fucking questions but couldn’t even bring himself to ask. He didn’t even know if he wanted to know. Justin squeezed his hand. “What, uh, what about my left eye?”
“We managed to stop the fluid from leaking and permanently damaging the retina. Unfortunately, like your right eye, there was also some optical nerve damage here also. We’re hesitantly optimistic since the damage is only partial. It is possible you might have some remaining sight in that eye once it has healed more.
“When will you know for sure?” Justin asked.
“Usually there is about a four to six week window where the sight can gradually improve before reaching full potential. We’ll monitor you closely over this time. That’s all we can really do.”
By this point, Brian had stopped listening. The pain in his eyes was steadily getting worse, it now felt as though he had millions of tiny shards of glass being slowly rubbed into his eyeballs.
Justin seemed to notice immediately. “Are you in a lot of pain?” he asked, before looking at the doctor, “Can you give him something stronger?”
Justin’s and the doctor’s voices started to sound tinny as Brian started to lose focus on his surroundings.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
The nausea that had been present since he woke up grew in strength and he tried to hold his head up.
“Wastebasket,” he muttered, clenching the blanket with his free hand.
“What, Brian?” Justin asked him, squeezing his hand.
But Brian didn’t get to finish. As if things couldn’t be any worse, Brian felt the bile travel up his throat and vomit fill his mouth as he began to retch. The vomit that didn’t pour down his chin stayed lodged in his throat, which caused him to retch harder, and he couldn’t fucking breathe.
If his body wasn’t fighting for that, he would be imagining how disgusting he looked. He sure as hell couldn’t see it for himself.
As Brian felt the doctor raise his bed, lean him over, and stick a gloved finger down his throat to clear his airway, he felt a vague humiliation at the vomit falling into his lap. However, the sharp, stabbing pain from his eyes tearing and the fact that the retching kept him from properly breathing distracted him from that a little.
“It’s probably a reaction to the anesthetic,” he heard the doctor say as Brian finally caught his breath, “We’ll give you some Dramamine and keep a close eye on your reaction to the morphine but you should be fine once the anesthesia wears off more. I’ll send a couple of nurses in to clean you up. I’m sorry, Mr. Kinney.”
He heard the doctor take a few steps, felt Justin wiping at his mouth with a wet cloth, and took a few deep breaths.
“You’re wrong,” he said to the doctor quietly.
“What was that, Mr. Kinney?”
“You’re wrong. About my eyes. You’re wrong.”
“...Brian,” he heard Justin choke out, but Brian moved his face away from the cloth.
“Mr. Kinney...I know it is all very hard to take in. When you are feeling better, we can go over how you and your family can cope with this and what your options are. Just get some rest now, okay?”
Brian clenched his jaw and said nothing more.
Doctor Lebowitz was wrong. Brian knew it.