Brothers Forever

The Grief

After shaking hands with the team, Michael was the first player off the ice, the first player out of the showers, and the first player to leave the arena. All that he could think about was Jonny, never mind the fact his team just punched a ticket to Pittsburg in the NCAA Frozen Four. Getting a ride from the Mike, the head trainer, to the hospital, Michael met his family in the waiting room.

“Congratulations” His Mom whispered into his ear, giving him a hug.
“Thanks, Any word on Jonny?” He asked, sighing, getting hugs from each of his family members.

“Nothing official, but the trainer popped out a few minutes ago saying that he was going in for some scans and testing to make sure they didn’t miss anything. He should be able to go home from the hospital tonight,” Michael’s dad said.

A wave of relief washed over Michael hearing that his brother was going to be okay. His mom gently rubbed his shoulder, “You and Jonny are so much alike. Jonny was a nervous wreck waiting for you to get out of surgery last summer”

“Why, everything was planned out?”

“He was just as afraid for you as you are for him that the dream of playing in the NHL will be squashed. But most importantly you guys are both afraid of losing each other.”

Michael gave his mom smile, trying to suppress showing any emotion. Then the family sat in the waiting room in silence. Easton stared at the clock, while Bryce occupied himself by playing a game on the family ipad. Mike, the father, sat with an arm around his wife rubbing her side.

Within the next hour, Michael began drifting to sleep, exhausted from playing back to back hockey games. “Brodzinski family?”

The entire clan stood up, staring at the doctor in the long white lab coat, holding a clipboard stand in the door way. Mike was the first to shake hands, “Mike, I’m Jonny’s father”

“It’s nice to meet you Mike” He nods the rest of the family, “I’m Dr. Johnson, I was on duty when your son came in this evening” He began taking them back into the meeting room, waiting for the family to get seated before revealing any information.

Pulling up a few scans on the computer screen, “Alright, here are the scans we took of both Jonny’s head and neck.”

“The good news is that there is no severing of the spinal cord, or any damage to the nervous system in his back. The thing I am concerned about is this coloring of the vertebrae.” He pointed down to the lower part of the image. “It’s hard to tell from this x-ray, but it looks like the collision caused a small hairline fractures to occur in his L3 or the lower back. As we speak, he is getting fitted with a brace that will help immobilize the area hopefully making the pain and comfort more bearable and the recovery period shorter.”

“How long in the brace?” Mike asked.

“Right now it looks like 6-8 weeks in the brace, and another 4 before any lifting, but that is just standard, recovery always depends on the person, I will be sending him home with a list of recommended orthopedists who specialize in back injuries like this, to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”

The entire family started nodding their heads. “Lastly, Jonny has a mild concussion. When he arrived at the hospital, he was alert and orientated, which is perfectly normal. I also will be sending him home with instructions concerning how he should be monitored and watched over the next few days. Like normal, no driving until he is cleared of his concussion, but talking to the trainer it sounds like the concussion thing is well under control”

“Sounds about right and typical concussion protocol” Kathy said, playing with the wedding ring on her finger, a habit whenever she knew one of her sons was in pain.

“Any other questions?” Dr. Johnson said.

An inaudible murmur filled the silence. The youngest Brodzinski, Bryce had asked the question. The question that most of the family was thinking, just not brave enough to ask.

“Excuse me what was that?” the doctor said turning to Bryce.

“Will he be able to play hockey again?”

The doctor smiled, “I have full confidence that Jonny will make a complete recovery and be ready to play hockey next season.”
Bryce smiled, an audible sigh of relief escaped the lips of everyone else in the room, “Any further questions? Otherwise I am sure Jonny would be happy to see you guys”

Michael was the first to stand up, taking initiative, “Alright let’s go see gimpy.”

Michael’s mom smiled. Hearing her son already throwing insults at his brother, returning to his playful personality. The doctor led the family through the maze of hallways of the Emergency Room, before stopping outside a room door. “I believe his trainer Josh is with him. He was given some pain killers, so he is probably pretty groggy and tired, hit the call button if you have any more questions, a nurse will stop by and give the discharge papers.”

“Thanks Doc” Mike said, as the family filled into the room, to see Jonny, lying flat on the bed, the outlines of a back brace underneath the hospital gown and an IV line in his arm. Hearing the door open and close, Jonny opened his eyes, tried sitting up, grimacing as the slight movement sent a twinge of pain from his spine and a new set of throbbing pulses in his head.

Mike gave him a soft smile, gently pushing Jonny back down onto his back, “hey how you feeling honey?” Kathy quietly said to her son.

Jonny closed his eyes, hoping the throb consuming his head would disappear, “I’ve been better, but I guess life can only go up from here. How did the game end up?”

“Same score as when you left” Michael said, “You scared everyone in the building”

“Yeah sorry about that, It’s not like I purposely wanted to go flying into the boards.” Jonny joked.

There was a gentle knock on the door, before it opened. “I come bearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt for Jonny.”

The family turned towards the voice on the door, “Hey Andrew”

Jonny's teammate turned to see him laying on the bed, “rough game Brodzy boy?”

“Yeah rough game Prochs, rough game” Jonny let out a small laugh. The people in the room stayed silent for a few moments, unsure of what to do, as Jonny continued to keep his eyes closed on the bed.

“Well, it’s good to see you’re alive Jonny, see you back on campus” Andrew Prochno said handing over a nicely folded pile of clothes to Easton and leaving the room.

“See ya” Jonny said, lifting his arm to say good bye.

“I’ll go work on the discharge forms” Mike said leaving the room, signaling for everyone else to follow except for Michael and his spouse.

“Alright you ready to sail out of here?” Michael said.

Jonny raised his eye brows, giving off a funny facial expression, “Guess so”

“Alrighty, let’s get the nurse to take out your IV and then we’ll get you dressed.” Kathy said, turning her fingers through Jonny’s hair. “You should just rest until everything gets sorted out.”
Jonny smiled in recognition, closing his eyes praying that the throb in his entire body would disappear.

Michael took a seat in the chair on the side, waiting for the nurse to come in, intently watching his brother rest on the hospital bed. Thinking back to what his mother said in the waiting room, Michael wondered if Jonny sat in the same position this summer.
A few minutes passed when a nurse came in, taking out the IV and helping Jon sit up, “Alright, you okay on taking on and off the brace?” Jonny nodded his head, “Alright, then the instruction Dr. Johnson left were for you to always wear the brace unless in the shower,” She began reading off a checklist, “If it is too hard to sleep in, try putting a pillow under your back to keep the metal from putting pressure on your back.”

Jonny gently nodded his head, just wanting to go home. “Okay, so your discharge papers have been signed, feel free to leave when you are ready, call if anything else comes about.” The nurse finished walking out of the door.

“You need some help getting your clothes on honey?” Kathy asked, comprehending the dazed look on her sons face. Not waiting for a response, she went to untie the gown that had been covering his upper body, revealing the real shape of the brace that kept Jonny’s posture so rigged.

Three bars crossed the front of Jonny’s abdomen, one on the upper chest, under the collar bone, and another near the diaphragm, and the third lined the hip bone, before sitting at right above his bladder. These bars were connected to two more metal bars that ran down the sides over plastic that molded to his sides. The front looked so intimidating that Michael didn’t even want to see the back.

“Okay, honey, it looks like Andrew just brought you a sweatshirt that we can side over this brace,” His mom said, helping Jonny get the sweatshirt over his head, and then gently pulling it down over the brace. After sliding his pants up to his knees, Kathy waved her son Michael over to help Jonny stand. Slowly, Jonny stood up, letting out a gasp as his head pounded even harder from the sudden movements. Kathy continued to help Jonny get his pants on, while Michael hovered around his brother to make sure that he didn’t fall over.

“Thanks” Jonny said, in a voice barely louder than a whisper, as Michael guided him into a hospital issued wheelchair before pushing him out into the waiting room.
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