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Excerpt from Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Saving Elijah

by Fran Dorf

Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf X
Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf
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    Jun 2000, 384 pages

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"Are you all right?" Young Dr. Jonas always had a bland expression, probably a good thing for a guy who watches children die. Of course Jonas also helped children live, I knew that. Some kind of genius, I guessed-I hoped-to be in charge, at so young an age in this New York City medical center where people came from all over the world, where they transferred you when your local hospital didn't know what to do. Or some kind of a lunatic. Or maybe he just had a God complex. Who else would seek this out day after day? I knew about lunatics and God complexes, being a psychologist.

On the other hand, I liked Jonas a lot more than I liked Dr. Moore, the attending doctor, a tall, bulky, fiftyish neurologist who never looked you in the eye. When I mentioned Moore's eye-wandering propensity to Sam, he said he hadn't noticed. How was that possible? This guy's eyes darted everywhere but never landed on you. Or maybe it was only me.

Now from the other side of the bed Sam was staring at me oddly, the dark circles under his eyes like bruises, punctuating despair. No wonder he was looking at me that way. I had been laughing maniacally in the PICU.

It was a sign. God would never let me imagine my child as an eight-year-old if he would never get there.

"I'm. All. Right," I said. There was that weird voice again. Ever since my son fell into this coma, the voice that came out of my mouth didn't sound like mine. There were out-of-place breaths between the words, no tonal inflections, no cadence or phrasing or beats. It didn't sound like a human voice at all. More like a machine.

"Is there any change?" Sam asked Jonas, who had finished his examination.

"We're scheduling him for an MRI tomorrow," Jonas said, as if that answered the question.

"Why an MRI?" I asked. "Dr. Moore says he's going to wake up any day." Elijah was still conked out, Moore kept saying, because of all the medications they gave him at the other hospital to stop the seizure, before they transferred him here. A drug cocktail, Moore called it, disparaging what they'd done there, I thought. I was reminded of the time we remodeled the upstairs bathroom and the shower floor ended up looking like a sliding board. The tiler blamed the Sheetrocker, the Sheetrocker blamed the carpenter, the carpenter blamed the electrician, who blamed the plumber.

"Sounds like he thinks they did the wrong thing," I said when Moore left the room after expounding his drug cocktail theory for the third time.

Sam said I was being ridiculous. From the moment we got here, Sam hadn't understood anything I said, or he understood and disagreed. Could I have been sadly mistaken all these years, believing Sam and I were complementary halves of a whole, that together we were more than what we were individually? Perhaps my robotic speech was an unknown language. Dr. Jonas unhooked Elijah's chart, made a note or two. I had read the chart myself, some of it:


Elijah Galligan, 5 years old . . . history of present illness . . . admitted 9:02 AM Jan. 4, status epilepticus . . . non-responsive . . . bluish extremities . . . patient intubated. Loading dose administered, 9:14 AM, Ativan, 5 mg . . . 9:25 AM Dilantin administered, 250 mg . . . 9:48 AM . . . phenobarbital administered, 300 mg. Mother states . . . transferred . . .

I hadn't yet been able to read any further, because the letters always started to swell and melt into meaningless black marks. Jonas hooked the chart back to the bed, pressed his hand into my shoulder in a gesture he meant to be comforting, I'm sure. "We'll do an MRI because we just want to be certain of everything," he said, then he left.

Left us, without telling us anything. Again.

I looked at my son lying there, his little glasses useless on the night table, his Tuddy beside him. No. There was something wrong with that. The doctor had moved Tuddy to examine him. I placed Tuddy back under his arm, and arranged his hand the way it was supposed to be.

Reprinted from Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Fran Dorf. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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