Saturday, September 10, 2016
Dante and Beth had driven home in silence. There had been nothing more that Doctor McQuillen had been able to tell them than Doc Mike hadn't, except that surgery might give Nathan back some of his sight. He might be able to see afterward, or he might only be able to make out shapes, perhaps only shadows. There was no guarantee that it would restore his sight at all. He'd sent the young parents home to think about whether they wanted to try the operation at all. He was of the opinion that the sooner they tried the better, but he was concerned about the baby's age and how he would react to the anesthesia.
After breaking the news to the family that night, they discussed their options over dinner at the Rossi Senior household. Oddly, Amadeo's eyes felt extra dry and he ran a hand over them until he saw red circles. He wondered if his nephew would ever see that much. Natie put a hand on his shoulder but he reassured her that he was fine, 'Shaken, not stirred.' to paraphrase James Bond." he quipped with a little smile that didn't reach his eyes.
Gabe silently propped his forehead on his fingers and closed his eyes, trying to think of what life without sight would be like. Con, who always had a comment ready for anything, had been unnaturally quiet during the conversation. He also closed his eyes, hands on his lap. Imagining.
Carmie tried unsuccessfully not to cry and her sister and sister in law comforted her. "This is wrong," Carmie laughed, wiping away tears. "I should be the one comforting you." she said, putting an arm each around Beth and Terri.
"I've had all day to get used to the idea." Beth said quietly. "We just sort of dropped a bomb on the rest of you, but we weren't sure how else to say it."
"So, he can have surgery, but there's no guarantee." Gabe repeated softly, opening his eyes and looking at his family. He wondered what it would have been like if he'd grown up never seeing the faces of the people he loved. Even his little brothers, though he'd have to be threatened with a hot poker before he would admit how much he actually loved Con and Amadeo.
"No. No guarantees." Dante said. "So now we have to decide if it's worth the risk. If we try and the surgery fails then Nathan hasn't lost anything, he won't even have the memory of it so he won't feel the frustration or upset that he might if we waited until he was older. But then there's the problem with the anesthesia. Doctor McQuillen told us that there was the chance that Nathan might not wake up from it."
Everyone went silent as they thought about that. Johnny took a forkful of food, but his wife's normally perfect dinner seemed tasteless and had no texture. He put his fork down.
"If you do wait until he's older and stronger, what then?" he asked. "Did he say?"
"Only that the sooner we do it the better. The scarring behind his retina could thicken and become harder to remove the older he gets, and his chances of regaining sight are lowered."
"But they're low now." Gabe said, a slight tone of desperation in his voice. "And no guarantees. And the possibility that he could d... that he could... No! Please Bethie, Dan. No? We went through that already. Once was more than any of us ever want to experience again."
"But there's a chance he could see." Con said, finally speaking. "Did the doctor say what the chances are of... of the anesthesia having a... a bad effect?"
"No, not in percentages." Beth Ann replied.
"How will they know if it works?" Con asked. "I mean, he can't say, 'Yes I see that.' I'm sorry I know I'm being dumb but..."
"You're not dumb until you say you're dumb." Dante tried to joke with a little smile for his brother. "Nathan is at the age now where if he can see he can focus on things. If you hold a toy up to him he can focus on it and follow it left to right and such... that's how we'd know. The question would be how well he sees, and we won't know that until he can talk."
"In another few weeks his vision would be almost where an adult's vision is. The girls will be able to focus on more and their range will be further. Doctor McQuillen suggested that we do the surgery within the next month and a half. He has Nathan scheduled for the surgery tentatively for September 25th, the babies will be ten weeks old by then."
"Two and half to three months old." Con said thoughtfully. "And the doctor will be able to tell what he needs to know by then?"
"We could wait until he's six months old," Dante said, "That's why he scheduled it tentatively. We can cancel it all together or reschedule it. We just have to weigh the risks and the possible outcomes and make a decision. But six months is the oldest he suggests we do it. There are doctors who will do surgeries when the kids are older, depending on the cause of blindness, and there may be some out there who think Nathan has a chance even later, but Doctor McQuillen is not convinced that the outcome would be any better by then. He gave us the name of another ophthalmologist we could go to for a second opinion. He even gave us a list that we could go through and choose ourselves if we felt more comfortable doing that."
"Why'd he do that? Wasn't he sure of his own diagnosis?" Con asked.
"No, hon,” Beth Ann replied patiently, “He just wanted us to get another opinion so that we could make up our own minds without him influencing us in any way. He said he'd told us what he thought but if we would feel better asking another doctor then that was our right and he certainly wouldn't take it personally. He told us that when he faced the same situation with his nephew Carter, he told his brother and sister in law to get a second opinion, and he gave them a list as well. He said that if we were willing, he'd ask them to give us a call and tell us what decision they made, and how things worked out, but he couldn't tell us anything himself. We allowed him to give them our names and number."
"May I see the list?" Natie asked.
"Of course, mamma, one moment,” replied Beth Ann, getting up to get her pocketbook. She came back with the list. It was a depressingly short one. Ten names were on the list, five of those were in Georgia. She looked at it again. Macon, where they'd just been, Athens, Atlanta, Decatur and Camden. The rest were even further away, Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Chicago.
"Doctor McQuillen said that there are other places but they're all on the west coast and the ones on the list were the closest to us.
Natie put down the list, trying not to show the frustration she felt. Even the doctors in Georgia were a fair distance to drive with a cranky two-and-a-half-month old baby. "Well," she said with a brightness she didn't really feel, "You have options here, and you know we're here to help. The boys start school in a few days... that reminds me we have to go buy your school clothes and supplies, we'll go tomorrow" she added absently as an aside to her two younger sons, “But you make your decision and whatever you decide we're behind you and you know we'll help in any way we can." she reassured her daughter in law and oldest son. Natie belonged to several lady’s clubs but she had no problem withdrawing from all of them if her children needed her.
"We know, mamma. We don't know what we'd do without you and dad." Dante said, blushing slightly as he made his admission. He loved is parents but he was upset that his family were left taking so much upon themselves. He was very angry with Beth Ann's parents and brothers, who hadn't called or written or tried to keep in touch since the day at the hospital. Beth Ann had tried to call but her parents, ever mindful of having to 'Keep up with the Jones’ as the saying went, had an Ansaphone and allowed that to take all calls.
So far they'd been ignoring all calls from the younger Rossi's but Dante had left one earlier that day when Beth had been upstairs dressing Nathan that should have burned their ears right off. Yet another soap-able offense if his parent's ever heard. He and Bethie didn't have an Ansaphone and he smiled when he thought about his in laws trying to get through to give him an ear full and getting nothing but a ring tone in response. He imagined them driving all the way from Screven to confront them and finding the house empty and locked, and found himself viciously enjoying the picture.
"I don't know what you're smiling about but you look like the cat that got the cream." Bethie said with a wry little smile toward her husband, who hadn't been as quiet during his phone call as he would like to have believed.
"Better,” Dante said, leaning toward his wife and kissing her soundly, “I got the golden goose. And I'm starving, lets eat before it gets too cold!" he said with a grin, digging into the chicken fried steak.
Stunned by his sudden about face and heartened by his flash of humor the other Rossi's dug into the food, which even cool tasted better than the finest the Drover had to offer.
'Shaken and not stirred.' James Bond movie, Dr. No, by Ian Fleming 1958
Ansaphone, created by inventor Dr. Kazuo Hashimoto, and marketed by Phonetel in 1960.