Daniel checked with the hospital each morning for the next two days, but there was no change in his mother’s condition. Then on the third day, “Mr Covid I am not pleased with the rapid deterioration of your mother’s breathing overnight. I am concerned that the fluid in her lungs is not clearing so today we will be taking a more aggressive approach to her treatment.”
“What will that entail Doctor?”
“Firstly we will put her into an induced coma, this will ensure her comfort. Then she will be put on a ventilator to assist her breathing.
“Is it that serious?”
“Let me put it this way. It’s good that the body is producing antibodies to target the virus, but an overwhelming response could be dangerous because the antibodies not only target the virus but may also target the other organs like, the lungs, liver, heart and kidneys. We don’t want to take that risk so she will be intubated, the ventilator will do the breathing for her and the Remdesivir is an anti-viral treatment. Do you understand Mr. Covid?”
“Yes, yes I do.”
“We will also put her on a course of the steroid Dexamethasone; this has anti-inflammatory properties and will help to dampen the immune response.”
“But why do you want to dampen the immune response, don’t we want the immune system to fight the virus.”
“Of course, but we want to regulate the immune response so that it targets the virus and not the otherwise healthy organs. The main task now is to keep her body functioning and avoid multiple organ failure.”
“You said multiple organ failure, is that likely?”
“I don’t wish to sound negative, but your mother is at a difficult stage and we are taking this action so that her condition does not deteriorate further. I want to assure you that we are doing all that we can to save your mother’s life.”
“Thank you for letting me know and I appreciate your frankness even though it is worrying.”
“I understand how you feel Mr Covid. There’s one more matter; has the tracing team from the Health Department been in contact with you?”
“Yes they have and we’ve given them the information they wanted and have taken their advice, but no one here has been in direct contact with my mother for over a month and none of us are showing any symptoms.”
“That’s good Mr. Covid. We’ll leave it at that for now and we will keep you informed.”
This was the same day that Kevin’s exams started with English always the first exam. Fortunately he had left home before the doctor told Daniel about his mother’s worsening condition. Kevin was about to start the exam but, despite all that had happened over the past week, Kevin felt he had prepared adequately and was confident going into the exam.
The education department had insisted the school put in place appropriate health procedures to ensure the safety of all candidates and supervisors. Temperature checks were done at the entrance, the use of hand sanitiser was compulsory and all students had to bring their own pens, note paper and any other allowed aids. The strict protocols of exam rooms and the normal stress of sitting for an exam were enough to focus Kevin’s attention for most of the three hours allowed. He allocated his time perfectly and attempted all required questions. At the sound of “Pens down” Kevin felt pleased with the way he had answered the questions.
Steve and Kevin met outside the exam centre where they were invited by some other students to join them at a local park for a can or two of beer. When Kevin asked where they would get the beer, he was told “Ask no questions and I will tell you no lies.”
“Fair enough, how about it Steve?”
“No thanks, I need to get home to study for my maths exams.”
“You’ve become a bit of a swat, I thought you’d be first in.” replied, a surprised James.
“You guys go ahead, I just need some time to sort out stuff.”
“How about you Kevin, are you in?” asked James.
Kevin looked at Steve questioningly while he thought about his answer. When he received no acknowledgment he replied. “No I’m good, better get home and find out how my gran is, she’s in hospital.”
As the two walked towards the bus stop they overheard Efron say to the others. “What’s with those two, can’t keep away from each other.”
“What do you mean?” asked James.
“Oh nothing much, just saying.”
“All right guys, better get down to the park, my brother will be there with a slab of beer. Don’t want to keep him waiting, he’s gotta get back to work.”
As they approached the bus stop, Kevin asked “How come you didn’t go, it’s not like you to pass up on free beer.”
“I’d rather be with you, let’s walk home again, it’s a good opportunity to be together and talk.”
“You prefer me to beer; that is flattering.”
“Well you’d better get used to it Kevin Covid, because you’re my man and I want to spend as much time together as we can manage.”
“Does this mean we’re an item, a couple, we have a thing goin’ on here?”
“If you are allowing me to make a decision for us both, then the answer’s a big yes.”
Kevin took hold of Steve’s hand lightly, but kept close to him so it wasn’t too obvious to any passers-by. When he felt Steve grip more tightly he felt all warm inside and let out a big sigh. “What was that for?” asked Steve.
“Just a sigh of satisfaction, it feels so good to be walking hand in hand with my boyfriend.”
“You said the BF word.”
“Isn’t that what we are now?”
“I suppose we are...” Steve paused, then added “...boyfriends.”
“Well boyfriend, I’m starving, are you going to buy me lunch?”
“It doesn’t take you long to become demanding.”
“Well, how about it?”
“I could do that, or we could go home to my place, I could make you a sandwich and then afterwards there might be dessert, of sorts, on offer.”
“Um decision to make, let me think, what will I decide?”
After working the lunch shift at the restaurant, Jenny spoke to Mario about her mother-in-law’s condition and it was agreed that she should take some leave to be with her family.
“Take as long as you need Jennifer, you will be on full-pay, less shift penalties of course. You need to be with your family now.”
“Thanks Mario, I appreciate that.”
“Jennifer, you have been a loyal employee here for over twenty years, siamo una famiglia ed è quello che fanno le famiglie. And besides Mamma would kill me if I did anything less.”Jenny had picked up enough Italian over the years to know that she was being treated as family by Mario.” They both laughed because, having met Mario’s mother many times, Jenny knew exactly what he meant.
Before leaving Jenny called Jason and invited him for dinner, so the whole family could discuss Beryl’s condition. Colleen was on two days off, so she was able to attend also.
“Yes Dad, I’ve been tested and got the results yeaterday, I’m negative.”
“That’s good Jason, we don’t need any more shocks around here.”
“So what’s the latest on Gran?”
“I spoke to the doctor this morning and he’s concerned enough to put her on a ventilator and steroids. Colleen, I can’t remember the name, dexa something.”
“It’s probably Dexamethasone, there has been some encouraging data coming out of the UK and Europe about its effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory and an immune response modifier for treating this virus. But if they are giving her that as well as Remdesivir, then her doctor must have some serious concerns.”
“It does have me worried, but we just have to put our faith in the medical advice and think positive.”
“That’s the spirit Dad.” said Christine.
When they sat down for dinner, Kevin asked “Can we have a toast to Gran and her speedy recovery?”
“You’re very keen on toasts lately, Kevin, any chance to get into the wine, hey?” replied Christine.
“That’s unkind Chris. I was only thinking of Gran and I don’t like it when she’s so sick, it makes me sad and I don’t want to be sad.” he said with a slight sniffle.
“Chris!” snapped Jenny “Kevin’s right, we all care about Gran, so let’s take him at his word. Would you like to propose the toast Kev?”
“Thanks Mum, here’s to my Gran, well our Gran, I want her back home soon ‘cause I want to give her a big hug.”
“To Gran” they chorused.
“How are your exams going Kevin? It must be hard to concentrate on them with all that’s happening.” asked Colleen.
“We just started today, had English and I think I went well. Next Monday’s maths, then I have a week free while they do all those foreign languages.”
“That’s great, I’m glad you are so confident.”
“Oh that’s me, always looking on the bright side.”
“Yes, you are rather chipper tonight Kev, I thought with Gran and the stress of exams you might be more sombre.” asked Jason.
“Well, there’s more to my life than exams these days.”
“What’s that Son?” asked Daniel.
“Are you all ready for this?” Everybody looked a bit mystified till Kevin said “I’ve got a boyfriend.” There was stunned silence, then Kevin added. “Go on you can congratulate me if you like.”
“Of course.” said Jenny “That’s exciting news. “Are you going to tell us who it is?”
“I think you already know Mum, but for the rest of you, it’s Steve.”
“Steve?’ asked a credulous Jason “Who’s been hanging around here for years. Steve, the beer swilling rugby player?”
“Jason!” snapped Jenny.
“Sorry Mum, I’ve suspected Kevin was gay for years, but Steve, that’s a complete surprise.”
Colleen sought to save the moment by saying “That’s great news Kevin, I’m really pleased for you, aren’t you Jason?”
Before Jason could answer, Christine added “Well it’s about time you came out and for what it’s worth, I think Steve’s a great guy, we all know him well and he’s comfortable around our family. No need for embarrassing introductions and all that.”
“Thanks Sis, now all we have to do is get you on the pillion seat of that biker from up the road.”
“Fill us in Chris.” asked Jason.
“There’s nothing to fill in, it’s all a figment of Kevin’s overactive imagination.”
Slab = Australian slang for a carton of 24 cans of beer.