It was a stormy Sunday night. When the lightning bolts lit up the sky, they revealed an eerie landscape shrouded by dark angry clouds. Danny was alone at work in the computer room where his company’s servers reside. He was responsible for his company’s I.T. infrastructure and he needed to finish an upgrade. All systems needed to be up and running for Monday morning. He had promised his boss this upgrade would be simple and there would be no business interruptions.
The new hardware looks good. The backup is done, now I can start the restore and apply the upgrades. Hopefully, this’ll just take a couple more hours. Fingers crossed, the bosses will be happy and I can have the day off tomorrow to spend with my heavily pregnant wife. We still have so much to do to get ready for the baby.
Danny punched in the command to start the restore. There was nothing he could do until the restore was completed. To calm his mind during the nervous wait, he scribbled down on a sheet of paper a list of items he needed to check afterwards to ensure the system is ready for the business tomorrow.
I can’t believe that I will be a father soon. It’s going to be a boy. Our first son. The doctor says he has a hole in his little heart but he will be fine once they close the hole. My parents will be so proud. Me, a Dad. I want my boy to call me Pa Pa. I like it better than Dad or Daddy.
Oh, bloody server. Hurry up. I want to get home.
Danny smiled as he recalled another conversation he had with his boss Mike, who already had children.
“Hey Mike, you have two kids rights?”
“Yeah, two little monsters. They don’t stop. They make a mess and I am permanently sleep deprived. But they are great. They are the best things that ever happened to me. You’ll know what I mean soon enough.”
Danny grinned ear to ear each time he thought about the baby and his wife. People around him often commented how happy he looked ever since his wife got pregnant.
A few more minutes passed. Danny felt a vibration in his pocket. He reached into it and pulled out his phone. It was Mary, his wife.
“Hi Sweetie, is everything alright?”
“Dan, I don’t know. I’m scared. Can you come home please?” Mary’s voice was shaking.
“I’m nearly done here. What’s up? What’s happened?” Danny pushed his phone closer to his face. His heart raced.
“I don’t know. I think I’m bleeding.” Mary started to cry.
“Alright Sweetie, don’t panic. You’re going to be fine. I’m going to call Dr. Bride and I’ll be on my way. Don’t do anything. I’ll call you right back.”
Danny looked at his computer screen. The status field said 40% completed.
Danny fumbled for their obstetrician’s number and pressed Call.
Pick up. Oh, pick up.
Danny felt he was going to pass out from holding his breath when finally a voice answered.
“Oh, Dr. Bride?”
“Dr. Bride, Danny here. My wife Mary just called and she said she was bleeding.”
“Hi Danny. I see. Looks like the baby wants to come early. Can you get her to the hospital right away?”
“I’m still at work but I can call an ambulance for her and meet her in the hospital.”
“Alright, do that. I’ll meet both of you at the hospital. With the baby’s heart condition, as we had discussed earlier, he’ll need to be operated on the moment he comes out. I will call Dr. Phillips the cardiac surgeon to join us.”
“Thanks Dr. Bride. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”
Danny quickly wrote a batch file to execute the set of commands that he was planning to do himself after the restore.
Well, these commands will need to run themselves without me. They should work as long as there are no errors from each step. I can check the status remotely and fix it from home later if required.
Danny ran out into the rain. He was drenched immediately. From the car, he called an ambulance for his wife. Then he called his wife.
“Hi Sweetie. I have spoken to Dr. Bride. An ambulance is on its way to take you to the hospital. I’m heading directly to the hospital. We’ll all meet up there. Okay?”
“Yeah okay.” Mary spoke meekly.
“You’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine. Dr. Bride and the heart surgeon will be there. We’re going to have our baby boy. ” Danny spoke in a calm but upbeat tone to reassure his wife.
Beneath the assertive tone, his mind was racing. His heart was racing. He didn’t know which one was going faster. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down, and started the car.
Danny punched the hospital name into his GPS and felt better once the familiar robotic sound came on to give him direction. It was good to be told what to do. He couldn’t think straight.
The rain was heavy. The wiper was on maximum speed working frantically to get the water off the windscreen. Danny craned his neck forward to try to get a better view. His grip on the steering wheel was so tight his fingers felt glued to the plastic surface. He could not move his fingers. He wished he could go faster but there was a lot of water on the road. The hospital was 30 minutes away. Luckily, at this time of the night, there weren’t a lot of cars on the road. It was just the GPS voice and him.
“In 300 metres, turn left onto Robertson Road.”
“In 100 metres, turn left onto Robertson Road.”
“Turn left onto Robertson Road.”
Danny flicked his indicator and steered his car closer to the curb to take the corner.
Without warning, Danny’s car was spun around. The car was now facing the opposite direction on Robertson Road.
Jesus, what was that?
Okay, I’m fine. Definitely not hurt.
I’ve probably hit a massive pothole covered by water and the tyre lost its grip.
Alright, I need to be more careful.
After composing himself, Danny was ready to go again. But the engine was dead. He turned the ignition key. Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing happened.
Fuck, no. Not now. Car, please start.
Danny turned the key again. Nothing.
He turned off the headlights and tried. Nothing.
This time, he pulled the key out completely, re-inserted it and then turned. Nothing.
One more time. Nothing,
Danny got out of the car. He was completely drenched in seconds. He looked around to see if he could get help. Apart from the streetlights, there were not a lot to look at. But then, in the distance, he could see the headlights of another car. He waited for the car to come closer and tried to flag it down. The car flew by him giving him nothing but a good splash of water.
Danny tried again for another car but also without success. Tears started to well in his eyes and the fear inside him grew. His breaths became shallow and he could not hold it together anymore. He hunched over with his hands on his knees and sobbed.
Why can’t I get anything right? Why am I such a loser? Oh Mary. Oh my baby. Is there a God? Well, where is he? Where is his mercy?
Danny let out a cry so primal and violent that he was taken aback himself. There was an anger in him he didn’t know he had.
Then a third car appeared. It had a left indicator on.
Oh yes, it’s turning left. It’s going to slow down and I’ll have a better chance.
Danny waved frantically at the car which slowed down and then stopped. Danny lashed himself onto the car. The driver opened the passenger window and saw Danny’s wide eyed and dripping face.
“Mate, I know your car is broken down and you need help.” The driver looked at Danny and gestured at his oddly positioned car.
“But I’m in a great hurry and I can’t be delayed. I’m very sorry but you’ll need to wait for the next car. I really can’t help you. Sorry,” the driver pleaded.
Danny was not going to take no for an answer. His whole body was pulsing. He needed to be with his wife and baby. He looked at the driver and sized him up.
An older guy wearing a tweed jacket and a yellow bow tie. A bow tie? Where is he going to? A dance?
Without a word, Danny hopped onto the bonnet and flung himself over to the driver’s side. He opened the car door and grabbed the driver.
“Get out of the car. Get out now or I’ll punch you.” Danny screamed at the driver.
The driver was shaken. He wanted to plead further but thought better of it. He undid his seat belt and Danny hauled him out of the car into the rain.
I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. Oh God. I’m not a criminal.
Danny drove off and rushed himself to the hospital.
He had made it. The hospital room was quiet apart from the beeping and mechanical noise from the monitoring equipment. Mary was there lying in the bed. She seemed fine. There was a nurse there. Dr. Bride was there already gowned up for the caesarean.
“Hi Dr. Bride, how’s everything?” Danny asked as he walked to his wife’s bedside to kiss her and to grab her hand.
“We need to get the baby out soon. He is showing signs of stress. But we need Dr. Phillips, the heart surgeon. He is not here yet. We need him to be ready when we pull the baby out. He really needs to be here soon.” Dr. Bride explained.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“Come on Dr. Phillips. Where are you?” Dr. Bride looked at the clock and sighed.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“His pulse is weakening. Come on.” Dr. Bride shook his head.
Beep. A long beep. Everyone stopped and looked at the monitor. Tears started to flow from Mary’s eyes.
The hospital door was suddenly flung opened by a grey haired man. He was drenched from top to bottom. Water dripped from his tweed jacket and his yellow bow tie looked like a drowning canary.
“I’m sorry for being late Dr. Bride, but I was delayed unexpectedly. What’s the baby’s pulse?” The man asked.
“Dr. Phillips. We have two minutes to put the baby on oxygen. We’ll be at theatre 4.” Dr. Bride instructed the nurses to rush Mary to the operating theatre.
Danny’s jaw dropped. He froze at the sight of Dr. Phillips.
Oh God. What have I done? If anything happens to the baby or Mary, it’s all my fault. I’m sorry.
Danny fell to his knees. He wanted to seek Dr. Phillips forgiveness. He wanted to seek his wife’s forgiveness. He wanted to seek his son’s forgiveness.
Dr. Phillips stumbled backwards when he caught sight of Danny. He stopped for a second and then widened his eyes. His mouth twisted and anger rose to his face. The power dynamic had shifted. He was the taller man now. He stormed over to Danny and stood over him. Pointing an angry finger at Danny, he yelled: “YOU MORON! What did you think you were doing? You’re an absolute idiot! ” Dr. Phillips turned and stormed out.
Standing in front a pane of glass. Danny gazed at his baby boy covered in tubes. He looked so tiny and weak but alive. He is alive. Danny turned to face Dr. Phillips who stood next to him.
“It was a close one.” Dr. Phillips said.
“Thank you so much for saving my son’s life and not pressing charges against me. If it wasn’t for you and your grace, I’d be ruined. I’d be responsible for killing my own son, imprisoned for car theft and assault. I’d lose my job. Mary’ll leave me and I’ll have nothing to live for. What price to pay for one bad decision. But now, I am a Dad. You have saved three lives. I will forever be in your debt.”
Danny looked gratefully at Dr. Phillips. He studied the doctor’s long eye brows; the deep wrinkles; the tall sharp nose and those dark and intelligent eyes. He wanted to remember the face that saved him and his family.
Dr. Phillips put his hands in his pockets and gave Danny a small nod as if to say “Don’t mention it.”.
“Doctor, why did you choose to help me even after what I had done to you?” Danny asked hesitantly, still embarrassed by his earlier action.
Dr. Phillips looked up then let out a sigh.
“Saving your son or my patients is my job and instincts. That’s simple. As to your stupid behaviour, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad at you. But I couldn’t judge you. I’ve no right to.”
The doctor paused and reached into jacket pocket. He took out his wallet and pulled out a photograph. He looked at it for a few seconds and passed it to Danny.
“Is that your son? A very handsome boy.” Danny asked.
“Yes, my teenage son. He was at a party and he called me up about a fight that had just broken out. I was working at the time. I had my patients to deal with and I thought I could see him after I had completed my rounds in the hospital. In the meantime, he could take some responsibility for himself.
I didn’t try get to him as urgently as you did to your wife and child. I wasn’t half as fierce as you were to defend my own family. By the time I got to the party, there were police and ambulance on site. I had no idea how bad the fight was. He was fatally stabbed and I didn’t get to tell him how much I loved him. He called me for help and I had let him down. I wasn’t there for him when he most needed me. His last moments will forever haunt me. Was he cold? How much suffering was he in? Was he angry at me? Maybe I could’ve saved him had I taken him more seriously and tried as hard as you did to get to him.” Dr. Phillips took the photo back from Danny.
“What price to pay for one bad decision.” The doctor sighed, shook his head and walked away.