Thirteen years earlier…
It was a Saturday in early February, and Jackie Littrell was puttering around in the kitchen, making lunch for her two sons, nine year old Harry, and five year old Brian.
Her walk was more of a waddle, for she was almost nine months pregnant and was nearing her due date. Her stomach had grown huge, and with her short frame, getting around had gotten to be much of a struggle.
“Mommy!” a weak voice called.
Jackie sighed. It was the voice of her oldest son, Harry. He was lying on the couch in the living room, sick. He had missed school the day before, and he seemed to be getting no better.
“What, sweetheart?” Jackie called back.
“I really don’t feel good,” he called back, his voice sounding hoarse and raspy.
“I’ll be there in a minute, hun,” Jackie said, hastily smearing some jelly across the peanut butter of Brian’s sandwich. She slapped a piece of bread over it and set it down on a paper plate.
“Brian!” she called. “Lunchtime!”
She heard the pattering of Brian’s little feet as he came scurrying into the kitchen. Jackie settled him down at the table and put the paper plate with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some potato chips on it and set a glass of milk down next to it.
“I’ll be right back, honey,” she said, carrying Harry’s lunch into the living room.
“I’m not hungry,” Harry moaned when he saw her enter the room. “I feel horrible.”
“Aw, sweetie,” Jackie said sympathetically, leaning over to feel his forehead. When her palm touched his head, she drew it back in surprise. His temperature had gotten much higher since she had last checked.
“My chest hurts, Mom,” Harry said, coughing deeply.
Jackie’s eyes widened in alarm. That did not sound good. And after all they had been through lately, she knew she couldn’t take any chances.
It had been Brian, not Harry, who had last been sick. It was the summer before, when they had brought him to the hospital after he hit his head outside, thinking he might have a concussion. As it turns out, Brian had a serious staph infection that had entered his bloodstream and spread to his heart. The infection was almost always fatal, and he had been given a zero percent chance of living. By some miracle though, he had rallied and fought off the infection, proving the doctors wrong.
That summer had been the hardest of Jackie’s life. She had almost lost her son. Since then, she had been much more protective with both of her boys. She didn’t want to go through anything so horrible ever again.
“Harry, you sit tight. I’m going to call your Dad,” Jackie said, heading back into the kitchen, where Brian sat, quietly eating his sandwich.
Jackie picked up the phone and dialed the number of her husband Harold’s office at IBM, where he worked.
When she had him on the phone, she hastily explained, “Harry’s gotten worse. His fever has gotten higher, and his cough sounds horrible. Plus, he says his chest hurts. What should I do?”
“Well… that sounds like it could be pneumonia,” Harold said, worriedly. “Maybe you should take him to the doctor.”
“Okay,” Jackie said. “Right now?”
“The sooner the better. If it’s serious, he’ll need medicine as soon as possible,” Harold replied.
“Okay,” Jackie said. “Thanks, honey.”
“Call me to let me know how he’s doing later, okay?”
“Okay, hun,” Jackie said. “Bye.”
They hung up the phone, and Jackie turned to Brian. “Sweetheart, go upstairs and get your coat and your shoes. We have to take Harry to the doctor.”
“But, what about my lunch?” Brian asked, eyeing his half eaten sandwich.
“I’ll get you something to eat later. Right now, we have to take your brother to the doctor. He’s sick,” Jackie said.
“Okay,” Brian said, scooching off his chair and taking off up the stairs to his bedroom.
Jackie headed into the living room. “Baby, I’m taking you to the doctor,” she said to Harry.
“No…” Harry protested. “I don’t wanna go!”
“I’m sorry, honey, but you’re sick. You don’t have a choice,” Jackie said. “I’ll be right back.”
She climbed slowly up the stairs and got a pair of sweats, along with shoes and a coat for Harold.
By the time she got back downstairs, Brian was standing by the back door, his blue winter coat on, and his Sesame Street velcro tennis shoes on his feet. “I’m ready, Mommy,” he announced.
“Good, honey,” Jackie said, smiling at him. “We’ll leave in just a few minutes.”
She headed back into the living room and helped Harry change out of his pajamas and into the sweats. Once he had his coat and shoes on, she grabbed her car keys and led Harry and Brian out into the garage to the car.
“Buckle up, boys,” she reminded as she squeezed into the driver’s seat. From the backseat, she heard two clicks as Harry and Brian buckled their seatbelts. Satisfied, she started the car.
On the way to the local pediatrician’s office, she glanced repeatedly back at Harry, who had his head resting against the cold glass of the window. “We’re almost there, honey,” she said softly. Harry just moaned in response.
In the parking lot of the doctor’s office, Jackie whipped into an empty space and shut off the car. She grunted as she struggled to climb out of the car and get her sons out.
Once they were all out of the car, Jackie took Brian’s small hand in hers, putting her other arm around Harry’s shoulders, and led them both into the building.