Everything was sunnier outside of the ICU, anything would be in comparison to staring at the same dingy ceiling tile for six days straight. At least, when he had the strength to stare that was. The baby barf pink tiling and almost unsettlingly cloying baby bear decorations in the pediatric ward had never looked quite so inviting as they rolled by that morning. It was almost a little disappointing when Lynn realized that wasn’t where he would be staying anymore. At least those rooms had decorations. He even kinda missed the twee inspirational posters the nurses hung on the walls, the kind with kittens reaching for butterflies and golden retriever puppies running around in the grass with little sayings like “You can do it!” emblazoned overhead.
But really, Lynn had more important things to be excited about today than getting let loose from the ICU. The fact that he’d finally escaped was nice enough on it’s own, but coupled with his victory, he was practically euphoric. In the emergency room he and his mother made a bet, well, he made a bet at least. She just cried. Seeing her in pain was… it was uncomfortable. He always wanted to fix it, make it go away, but God in the end he wouldn’t be able to. That made him uncomfortable too. He had to make her happy while he was still around. That was the hard part though, jokes didn’t mean much when your child might be dying.
That night each of his attempts to cheer her up had been met with nothing more than a sniffle or weepy observation of how strong he was. No mom, I’m trying to be funny right now, not strong. Please smile. Please. Hopped up on pain narcotics and delirious due to lack of sleep, giddy to be pain free for once despite slipping in and out of consciousness amid a tangle of tubes and hurried orders for chest x-rays, Lynn managed to flash her his best grin. Mom, he declared, voice almost airy, I’ll bet you a whole candy bar I’m gonna be outta the ICU in… a week. At that, she finally laughed. Maybe at his audacity, they had both lived through months long hospitalizations, but it was a laugh nonetheless and he could breathe a sigh of relief. That night he could just feel it. It was gonna be a week. Just a week. This could be bronchitis, pneumonia, edema, he could be here for months. But he wouldn’t be.
And he wasn’t. His lung had collapsed. That was the thing though. It was a collapsed lung, but it wasn’t that kind of collapsed lung. It was a burst-blisters-from-an-infection-let-air-leak-into-his-chest-cavity kind of collapsed lung, not a bipap machine + too much air & not enough lung = complete-collapse-and-trash-compactor-amount-of-pressure-on-his-heart kind of collapsed lung. It was the kind people lived through, the kind doctors didn’t need to cut open his old surgical scars for. They put a tube in his chest to drain the air and he cried, his mom called him strong again, but that time he didn’t feel like it. But that didn’t matter anymore, Lynn felt like a person again. He was awake. The blisters stopped and the air got drained, his body even started fighting back.
And even better, he was one day shy of his self imposed deadline.
After getting poked and prodded that morning, checked over thoroughly, he finally got the okay to leave. The nurses fussed over him on the new floor, but he didn’t mind, he liked the company. Once they finally had him all hooked up with all his machines in order and left him to rest, Lynn shot his mother a text.
"Guess who’s getting moved? YEAH. THIS GUY!
Better have that candy bar you promised me when you visit. (I wouldn’t mind if it was one of those one pound Hershey’s bars, if you were wondering).”
Really, it was fool proof. How do you tell your almost died a week ago child that you wouldn’t buy them their promised candy bar? After a moment the guilt for sending her such a snarky message after the week he put her through was overwhelming.
“PS: I love you, I hope work isn’t too hard today.”
Just to top it off he threw on some emojis, a bunch of hearts and some of the cat ones she liked so much. It was only after he waited eagerly for a response from her for five minutes did it dawn on him just how desperately he needed a social life. Biting his lower lip he cast a shy glance around the room, it was nice, but lonely. One of the other beds had the curtains pulled all the way around while the other patient, a girl, was asleep. Even with the air pressure gone his lungs still felt heavy, like each breath was too shallow and no breath could get past his throat. In a desperate attempt to not make the sensation more than it was in panic, he closed his eyes and tried to work through it rationally. Just gotta cough, that’s all. With the chest catheter he couldn’t wear his oscillation vest to clear his airways, he was just starting to feel the effects, that was all. Nothing that bad. He just had to cough.
Setting his phone aside with a shaky hand, Lynn lay the other over his chest as he took a deep breath. He dared a nervous glance around, hesitant to make noise while the others. The first cough was gentle, more of a huff than anything. With each cough he could feel the tube in his chest, bizarre to say the least. Tender, but not exactly painful, a strange pressure where pressure wasn’t meant to be. Somewhere along the line his coughs stopped being voluntary and controlled, practically compulsory instead, his huffing turned to wheezing as his chest rattled. Doubled over in pain, Lynn squeezed his eyes shut, beginning to feel lightheaded. All the wheezing was making it hard to breathe. Feeling like he was about to choke, he made a desperate grab for the kleenex on his table. He covered his mouth with it, hacking up a sticky sickening mixture of blood and mucus. “S-sorry…” Lynn mumbled breathlessly, someone was awake but he was distracted, brows furrowed at the sight of all the red in his hand. Shit. Pushing his free hand over his face and through his hair, Lynn took a deep breath before glancing to his new roommate. He managed the best smile he could, still dazed from trying to clear out his lungs. “I’m–” His voice was weak, he took another deep breath, making a stronger start this time. “I’m Lynn.”