Because of Noah
When newborn Noah Hunter was diagnosed with a sick heart, many wonderful things happened.
She sees. Fluid is everywhere, a blur, as if Noah had been moving when the X-ray was taken. A black corona engulfs his heart, its shadow spilling irregularly outward, pooling here and there. Noah's pulmonary arteries have so softened and stretched that they're as big as his aorta.
Stephanie's profession is now a curse. A cardiac nurse. Who happens to possess a near photographic memory. Which means that when Noah's pediatrician tells Steph that her boy in all likelihood has a "left-to-right shunting problem"—and what its dimensions are—she knows what the words mean. She begins quietly crying. The pediatrician continues to talk. Steph just listens and then, after a time, hangs up and walks back out to the waiting room. Noah's strapped into his carrier. Chris grips its halo handle with one hand. Very quietly, he asks his wife what is going on. Steph tells him: Fluid. Enlargement. Juiciness. Left-to-right.
It's not the juiciness that fells Chris. It's when he asks what a "left-to-right shunting problem" means to her and she says, "It means there's a hole in his heart, and the only way to fix it is open-heart surgery." Now he sees what she sees: his newborn son naked, on ice, his eyes taped over, his heart stilled, his chest cracked open, his ribs snapped.
Chris Hunter, gifted as he is in quantitative analysis, has no way to measure this obscene vision. It doesn't just overwhelm him. It cuts him off from himself, as if he were a puppet whose strings have been severed. His body smacks the cold, smooth floor and folds into itself, the mouth going stupid, an open flap, the breathing a weird staccato of sucks and jabs. His eyes are open and fixed on Noah, a foot away and asleep in his carrier. Steph's watching Noah, too, and from the same angle; as Chris has fallen, Steph has fallen, lassoing his neck with one arm to shield his head. It is the oddest tableau: the intensely private couple lying on the floor of the fluorescently public space as strangers watch and walk past. Their bodies are spooned, their eyes fixed on the sleeping infant. The woman has the man in a headlock, and she whispers into his ear.
Those were the doctor's words, not mine.
It might not be that.
We don't know...we don't know...we don't know.
We're going to formulate a plan.
We're going to implement the plan.
We're going to figure out what it is, and then we're going to fix it.