Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Three

“You sit, too, Mina,” Rob gruffed, not taking his attention from Dr. Sullivan. Blushing, Wil moved to the couch and sat. She almost missed, but only Jakob’s sigh indicated anyone had noticed.

The doctor, meanwhile, closed her eyes for a second and released her own exhalation. “I see, from your hospital notes, that you were in here just two days ago, Mrs. Winters.” She ran a clean, practical finger down her tablet of notes. “Respiratory infection, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Wil’s mother answered.

“And you were discharged with intravenous medications?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been following your regular medication and exercise schedule as well?” Dr. Sullivan’s left eyebrow rose as she looked up at Cynthia for answer.

Cynthia, however, looked down. “Just the medications.” Her thumb stroked Rob’s comforting hand. “Oh! And the lung therapy. Once.”

“Well, that’s to be expected,” her interrogator replied, not unkindly. She scrolled through more notes.

Wil shifted on the plastic couch. She stifled a yawn, studied the painting of a girl over the bed again, and watched the neutral-colored window curtains sway in the room vents’ warm air. Her letter and birth certificate crinkled as she sought a new position for her hands. One look from her father settled them into her lap.

“I see that you were also informed about Cystocaftor, and that you were able to receive a lung transplant over a decade ago.”

“We know all this!” Wil blurted. Jakob snorted in amusement.

Rob was not amused. “Wilhelmina!”

Wil returned to fidgeting with her papers. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“I realize you want to move on to the main topic at hand,” soothed Dr. Sullivan. “However, Wil -may I call you Wil?”- Wil glanced up to meet the professional woman’s cool, dark eyes and nodded. “Wil, it’s important to be sure we are all on the same page. Also, these points are imperative to discussing the immediate issue.”

Wil blinked from a blank expression.

“They’re important as …things that led to what I am going to talk about,” Dr. Sullivan simplified. She looked around at them all, finishing with and lingering on Cynthia. “Number one big issue: despite the effectiveness most patients are experiencing with the new drug options, I’m afraid that your current state severely limits that efficacy.” Clearing her throat, she said, “Your more advanced age and the state of your complications are the main causes.”

“But,” Rob stammered, “We were told it would guarantee her at least five years.”

The respiratory doctor dropped her gaze to give a slight, negative shake of her head. “No. I’m sorry, Mr. Winters.” She pulled a stray wisp of graying brown hair back with its fellows at the sides of her head; patted her strict bun. “I’ve read over the trials, and the most optimistic bet puts you at two years.”

The silence following her words was filled with a thousand shocked thoughts and at least as many silent denials of what they were suddenly faced with.

“We have two years?” Wil asked in nearly a whisper.

“No, Wil,” Dr. Sullivan’s eyes met Wil’s again. “Probably less.”

“How-” Jakob’s voice was husky. “How long?”

“I’m afraid that is the question everyone wants the answer to.”

“But,” Cynthia spoke up, startling her family. “Surely you have some estimate?” Her clear blue eyes and openly trusting face would have melted a statue.

“Of course.” The doctor folded her hands around her tablet and rested them in her lap. “Depending on how this ‘flu season turns out, I’d give you between three months and a year and a half before serious complications interfere with normal life.”

 

Continued from Sixty-Two.
Keep reading to Sixty-Four.

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