San Diego, California
Sunday, April 25, 2004
0704 Hours (local)
Mac kept glancing at the clock on the wall, counting down the minutes. Frank was going to drive her back to the airport in less than half an hour. They had stayed with Harm all night and he would periodically squeeze her hand or his mother’s. The more he worked at it, the more Mac wanted to stay. She hated to leave him after he had come so far, but she had no choice. Squeezing his hand, she blinked back the fresh round of tears that were threatening to fall. She just didn’t want to go.
Harm squeezed her hand once more, as if he understood her thoughts. She glanced at him and then at Trish, sitting on the opposite side of the bed, wearing a gentle smile.
“I like it when he does that,” she said softly. “It gives me hope. It makes me think that he might make it.”
“I know,” Mac said, her voice every bit as soft as Trish’s.
“I’m sorry you have to go,” Trish admitted. “It just doesn’t seem right.”
“I have to. The Admiral won’t accept my resignation, and honestly, I know he can’t afford to lose another lawyer right now. The SecNav is breathing down his neck about my taking the leave time, even though he knows why. I just have to go back.”
“I know, dear,” Trish responded. “You don’t have to explain it to me.”
“I feel like I should explain it to him,” Mac replied, glancing down at Harm.
“I think he knows,” Trish said, also glancing down at her son. She squeezed his hand and a few brief moments later, received a squeeze in return.
Mac continued to gaze down at Harm, wishing she didn’t have to go. For a long time, the room was silent except for the ticking of the clock, the beeping of the machines connected to Harm, and his breathing. Glancing at her watch, hoping for a different answer than the clock on the wall was giving her, Mac knew she had only five minutes before she and Frank had to leave for the airport. She sighed heavily and once again blinked back the tears.
He squeezed her hand and once more, Mac looked up and met Trish’s gaze.
Frank’s hoarse voice reached them from over Trish’s shoulder. “Oh my God.”
Glancing down at Harm, fearing the worst, Mac was shocked by the sight before her. Harm’s brilliant seawater-green eyes were open. “Oh my God,” she whispered, feeling at a total loss for words. Without thinking, she reached out and hit the nurse-call button.
“Harm,” Trish whispered.
Harm moved his eyes back and forth, panic clearly visible in the stormy depths. He was swallowing repeatedly, the muscles in his mouth working desperately to speak.
“Shh…” Mac said calmly. “Just wait. Don’t try to say anything.”
A nurse rushed into the room, her attitude much more pleasant than Shelly’s had been the previous evening. “Can I-” she stopped herself short as she saw the whites of Harm’s eyes and his increasing heart rate. “Oh!” She raced out of the room, calling for Dr. Tulane, the doctor who worked with Harm when Dr. Samson wasn’t on duty.
“Shh…” Trish repeated. “It’s okay, Harm. Just calm down. It’ll be okay,” she said in a soothing tone of voice.
A moment later, Dr. Tulane rushed into the room. Seeing that Harm was awake, she took quick note of his vitals and started talking to him. “Don’t try and talk. We still have tubes running down your throat and you will only hurt yourself if you try. Just calm down. We’ll take the tubes out in a little while, but we will want to run some tests, run a few brain scans.”
Harm’s heart rate began to slow as the people around him spoke, their words making sense, easing his fear and confusion.
Mac squeezed his hand, tears running freely down her cheeks.
Dr. Tulane spoke to the three of them, “I’m taking him immediately to run some scans. I’ll get Dr. Samson in here as soon as possible. We’ll run some tests and see what is going on. It will probably take a while.”
The three of them nodded, knowing exactly what this meant: they would have to leave him while he was taken from them. They would be forced to sit in the waiting room, waiting for information, instead of being with him.
Trish looked down at her son and said to him, giving his hand a squeeze, “We’ll be here when you get back. I promise.”
Mac brushed a kiss onto the back of his hand. “I’m not leaving you now. If you wanted to make me stay, you succeeded. I’ll be here when you get back.”
Dr. Tulane ushered them out of the room before preparing to take Harm down for his tests.
All thoughts of leaving had fled from Mac’s mind. She couldn’t leave him now. In the waiting room, the three of them took a seat, leaning on each other for support. Mac was amazed at his awakening, knowing the odds had been against him since the beginning. Knowing full well that he probably wasn’t out of the woods yet, hope still flared in Mac’s heart, just knowing that he had returned to consciousness. He might one day be able to return to his life, to her, and the life they had both wanted to have.
Some time later, Frank rose to his feet and stretched. “I’m going to go get some coffee. Do you want any?” he offered.
Both Trish and Mac nodded, continuing to lean on each other. When Frank was gone, Mac asked hesitantly, “Do you think he’ll make it?”
“He’s a fighter. So was his father. He’s made it this far and if anybody can make it, Harm can.”
Mac nodded, her head resting against Trish’s shoulder.
Frank returned a few minutes later with three cups of coffee.
Mac sipped at the liquid, hardly tasting it as it rolled over her tongue. She glanced up at the clock on the wall, her own internal clock still on vacation. Harm’s awakening hadn’t revived it. She smiled weakly as she said, “I don’t guess I’m going to make my flight.”
Glancing up at the clock as well, Frank said, “I guess not.”
Mac rose to her feet, grabbing her purse and pulling it over her shoulder. “I’m going to go call the Admiral and try and straighten things out. Then I’ll call the airline and…” she trailed off. She had no idea what she was going to do.
Trish nodded as Frank said, “Go. We’ll find you if we hear anything.”
With their assurance, Mac turned quickly and left. Once she was standing in front of the hospital, she called the Admiral’s home.
He answered almost immediately. “Chegwidden.”
“Admiral?” Mac spoke hesitantly.
“Colonel? Is everything all right?” Thus far, she had not called him at home, only at the office. And hearing from her now, his heart was in his throat and his stomach was rolling, fearing the worst had happened.
“Admiral, I’m not going to be there tomorrow,” she stated calmly.
“Mac, is he okay? Are you okay?”
“He woke up.”
“He woke up?” he asked, incredulous.
“Just a little while ago. He started squeezing my hand last night and the doctor could make him gag and this morning, he just opened his eyes and woke up.”
“Oh my God,” the Admiral couldn’t believe it.
“They’re running tests now, so we should know more later.”
"That’s amazing,” he said as he took a seat on his couch. Meredith was observing this from her spot in a nearby chair where she had been reading papers from her students. All the color had drained from his face. “You will call me when you get results. That is an order.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” Mac responded automatically. “But I won’t be in tomorrow.”
“Of course not,” the Admiral responded. He had heard her the first time and he wasn’t surprised, given Harm’s recent improvement.
“What will we do?”
“I still won’t accept you resignation, so don’t even try it.”
“I don’t have any more leave time…” she trailed off.
“I won’t list you as UA. And I will do what I can about keeping the SecNav off my back and away from you. But, Colonel,” he began seriously, “I can’t do this for more than a few days.”
“I know, Sir. I can’t leave him now, though.”
“We’ll figure it out. Just call me when you get the results.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. And thank you.”
When they hung up, Mac called the airline and arranged for a flight on Tuesday. She rushed back into the hospital to take her seat next to Trish and Frank and wait for word on Harm.
San Diego, California
Sunday, April 25, 2004
1234 Hours (local)
Dr. Samson found them after he got Harm settled in his bed. The trio that had stood vigil over him immediately rose to their feet as the doctor approached.
“Is he okay?” Trish asked.
At the same time, Mac asked, “Can we see him?”
The doctor held up his hand. “One at a time. I’ll let you go in to see him in a few minutes. He is sleeping, though. Let him rest, he needs it. Harm appears to have some damage to the cerebellum at the base of his brain. This is consistent with the external injuries when he arrived, leading us to believe that he sustained a blow to the head. Any damage caused by hypoxia appears to be separate from that. It appears that his medulla, just above his spinal cord, has also acquired some damage, most likely from the lack of oxygen while he was in the water. Blood appears to be flowing to all parts of his brain, which is a very positive sign.”
“What does all of this mean? Is any of this damage permanent?” Frank asked.
“We don’t know at this point in time. There is still a chance that he could slip back into a coma. The damage to the medulla could account for Harm’s inability to breathe on his own after he was pulled from the water. And we will probably never know why he started breathing on his own when he did. However, the medulla seems to be recovering, as many of his autonomic functions have returned to him. We just don’t know at this point.
“As for the damage to the cerebellum, likewise, we don’t know if the damage is permanent. In many cases, with a hard enough hit, it is. We will certainly work with him more and run additional tests when he recovers some strength to try and determine the extent of the damage. What we do know at this point is that the damage appears to be minimal. Patients with permanent damage, to the extent Harm currently has, usually live fairly normal lives. They may have some problems with coordination and activities such as driving, but some don’t have many problems at all. The brain is an amazing organ and with certain injuries, it finds ways of compensating.”
“Were you able to talk to him?” Mac asked.
“We did remove the tubes from his throat, which is very raw and he can’t really speak at this time. He tried, but we had to keep telling him to be quiet. We were able to ask him some questions, and he was able to move in order to respond with simple nods and shakes of his head.”
“Do you know what happened?” Mac pressed.
“We asked him if he remembered what happened, how he ended up here, and he shook his head no. This is not unusual, some level of localized amnesia. We asked him if he recognized who had been with him in his room and he nodded in the affirmative. With his limited means of communication at the moment, we can’t gain much information from him. However, with improvements, we will be able to further assess his situation by running additional tests.”
“Is the amnesia permanent?” Trish asked.
“It can be. We don’t know. Some people do regain their memory and some don’t. And at this point it could be that Harm has selective amnesia, in which he remembers most of what happened but not all the details, or localized, in which he remembers nothing from a certain point. But because he knew who you were, we find it unlikely that there is a more serious form of amnesia. He probably does have some form of both anterograde and retrograde amnesia, probably due to the lack of oxygen to the hippocampus while he was under water. And while it appears to be minimal under the circumstances, at this time, we just don’t know for certain.”
“Can we see him now?” Mac asked again.
Dr. Samson nodded. “Just let him sleep. And when he awakens, call a nurse. Don’t push him to talk and try and keep him quiet,” he said as he led them down the hall.
Entering the room, Harm was lying on his back, his head turned to the side, one arm stretched out beside him and the other hand was on his chest. His deep breathing indicated that he was indeed asleep and not in a coma, although he didn’t look much different. A faint smile touched Mac’s lips. Just the sound of his breathing made him seem more alive.
“Thank you, doctor,” Frank said as Dr. Samson turned to leave.
“I’ll return in a little while just to check on him. If something happens, one of the nurses will page me.”
The three of them nodded, none of them really wanting to remove their eyes from Harm.
After a few minutes, Mac stepped back outside to phone the Admiral and let him know of the results of the tests.
San Diego, California
Sunday, April 25, 2004
2142 Hours (local)
Harm was stirring. Mac glanced up from her perch in a chair beside his bed. Over the bed, she met Trish’s gaze. Had they looked, they would have seen Frank looking over at Harm as well. When his eyes opened, it was his mother that he was looking at.
At first his eyes expressed only confusion, but when Trish spoke, they cleared with recognition. “Harm…”
For a moment, all Harm could do was look. He turned his head and met Frank’s eyes. He turned still further and saw Mac. Blinking his eyes a few times, an expression of surprise could be seen. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
Mac hit the nurse-call button and within seconds, a nurse, Gabrielle, entered the room. Seeing Harm awake, she nodded and quickly left, only to return moments later with a cup of ice chips. She handed this to Mac. Mac gently fed him a few pieces with a spoon. Gabrielle was watching over Mac’s shoulder with a smile on her face. She had been hoping this patient would recover.
With a few ice chips down, Harm managed to squeak out some sound, something resembling “Mac.”
“You’re not supposed to talk,” Mac said gently. “But I’m here. I had to come.” At the questioning look in Harm’s eyes, Mac’s own eyes welled with tears. “We’ll fix it, I promise. We’ll get past… everything. We’ll find a way. But you have to get past this, first. Don’t worry about what happened at home.”
There appeared to be brief flicker of recognition before Harm closed his eyes.
“That’s it, go to sleep. You need your rest. We’ll all be here when you wake up,” Mac reassured him. Within moments, Harm’s breathing deepened and he visibly relaxed, very much asleep.
San Diego, California
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
1841 Hours (local)
Harm had awakened a few times over the last two days and even managed to say a few things, as he swallowed more ice chips and his throat gradually healed. Not much had been said, as Trish, Frank, and Mac all tried to keep him quiet, although they were all relieved to see him pushing the boundaries like his old self. He had spent a great deal of time sleeping, and the doctors had assured them it was completely normal.
Frank would be driving Mac to the airport shortly for her red-eye flight back to Washington, D.C. She was due in at BWI around 0930, and the Admiral told her he would have someone there to pick her up and get her back to JAG. Once again, Trish and Frank had disappeared for a while, leaving Mac alone with Harm. He had been asleep for a long while, but he was just stirring to life.
“Mac,” he whispered.
Mac squeezed his hand. “I have to go home, Harm.”
“Why?” he croaked.
“The Admiral is making me,” she responded, smiling weakly. “He wouldn’t take my resignation. He hasn’t filed me UA, yet, but I ran out of leave a few days ago. The SecNav is breathing down his neck about my absence.”
Harm nodded, understanding her.
“I don’t want to go, though. I’d rather stay here.”
Harm shook his head slightly. “Go home.”
Looking into his eyes, Mac knew he didn’t mean it in a hurtful manner. “I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
Harm’s mouth formed a small smile. “I know.”
“You shouldn’t be talking,” Mac reminded him, laughing softly.
Harm’s smile faded as he averted his eyes.
“And when you’re better, we’ll discuss everything, straighten it all out. Until then, you just concentrate on getting better.”
“Yes, mom,” Harm said weakly, returning his gaze to Mac.
“I’ll miss you,” Mac said, wiping a tear from her eye.
“I’ll miss you,” he whispered, squeezing her hand.
Mac lowered her head to his chest, feeling him breathe and listening to his heartbeat, just glad to have him back, alive.