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Maan's hands balled into fists as if it were a natural reflex. What the hell were they doing here? Hadn't they done enough already?
He watched silently as Naintara cried as she held onto her mother. A few seconds later, his own parents rushed into the waiting room.
"How is…," Pammi began to ask as she pulled way.
"How dare you come here," Maan said.
He has so much rage flowing through his body at that moment that he heard his voice shake.
"How dare you come here!" Maan yelled.
He saw Naintara flinch.
"I'm sorry…I'm the one that called…I couldn't…I…I just couldn't…" she said as she stuttered.
Her eyes filled with tears again.
"Maan beta…Geet needs me…my daughter needs me…" Pammi said.
"No…no she doesn't need you…" Maan said.
"We are here to help Beta," his mother said from behind.
"I think you all have done quite enough," he said with an edge in his voice. "When it was time for you to step in and do something you all did nothing! You didn't let Geet receive prenatal care which could have avoided all this mess!"
"But…" Brij began.
"No…no buts'…there is nothing…NOTHING you can say that will excuse what you did," Maan said.
Maan ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
"She's your daughter…she was pregnant and scared…how could you not care for her?" he asked.
"We didn't…" Brij began again.
"It's because you refused her medical care that the both of them are fighting for their lives!" Maan accused. "Geet lost so much blood that she slipped into a coma. My baby…my daughter…was born so early that she weight only three pounds…three God damn pounds!"
Maan hears Brij Uncle gasp and take a step back.
"You're a doctor so you know what that means right?" Maan asked mockingly. "You know that risks are associated with such small premature babies."
"Risks?" his mother, Savita, asked.
"She could develop cerebral palsy, she could have vision and hearing problems, she could have developmental problems and delays and learning disabilities," Maan said.
"Oh God," his father said.
"All simply because you didn't let Geet see a doctor during her pregnancy!" Maan yelled.
Tears well up in Maan's eyes.
"You are her parents how could you do this to her?" he asked.
"Maan Beta…" his father began.
"No Papa, don't…you and Maa are just as responsible for this situation as Brij Uncle and Pammi Aunty are," Maan said accusingly. "You are their best friends, you are supposed to talk sense into them when they don't make sense in what they do. You always said Geet was like a daughter to you…this is what you do to your daughter? I blame you just as much as I blame them."
"But…" Savita began, but was cut off.
"What if something happens to her?" Maan asked the four adults gathered there. "What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to tell Geet? How am I going to face her and tell her that we only have this one child because she can never have children again?"
Now, a collective gasp went around as the four adults looked on in disbelief at what they'd just heard.
"What if something happens to Geet? How am I supposed to tell my daughter that she'll never see her mother or know her mothers love? How am I going to raise her with out Geet?" Maan asked.
There was not a dry eye in the waiting room. By this time everyone had tears in their eyes, no matter how much they tried to fight it.
"And what if…what if something happens to the both of them? Then what? Maan asked. "How am I supposed to live without them?"
Now it was Maan who stumbled and fell into one of the chairs, tears streaming down his face. He felt someone come and put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him as they tears fell.
"I need to see Geet," Pammi said. "I need to see my daughter."
"No!" Maan roared as he got back to his feet. "None of you will see Geet or our baby."
That was enough to get Pammi Aunty into full mother lion mode.
"She's my daughter…you can't stop me," she said as she took a step forward.
"She's my wife…and yes…I can," Maan countered.
At the mention of 'wife', all four adults looked at Maan's left hand where he wore his wedding ring proudly.
"Beta…please don't do this," Savita said.
"I'm only looking out for the safety of my wife and child Maa," Maan said.
"No, we won't let you stop us," Brij said as he too stepped forward. "We have the right to see our daughter."
Maan looked at Brij Uncle with a smirk.
"Suddenly you realize she is your daughter," he said.
"You can't stop us…you can't…" Brij said.
He took Pammi Aunty's hand and began to drag her towards the elevator's.
Movement by the entrance to the waiting room caught Maan's attention. Looking over he saw a man dressed in a dark suit come and hand Dev an envelope. Maan watched as Dev pulled out the contents, skimmed through them, then said thank you and shook the man's hand.
"Yes, I can and I will," Maan said.
"No…you can't," Brij said, this time anger seeping into his voice.
"He can and he has," Dev said.
The adults turned to Dev and eyes him suspiciously because they didn't know who he was.
Dev simply took out the pieces of paper and handed one to each adult.
"Dr. Khurana has drawn up restraining orders which state that none of you are allowed within 500 feet of Mrs. Geet Khurana or baby girl Khurana," Dev said.
After they had a moment to digest what had happened, it was Gurinder that spoke up first.
"This is preposterous!" he yelled.
"You can't be serious," Brij said.
"My client is very much serious," Dev said firmly.
"Your 'client'?" Pammi asked, "Maan…you got a lawyer?"
"I did what I felt like I had to, so that I could insure the safety of my wife and child," Maan said without any hesitation.
"If any one of you…" Dev began as he scanned the four people in front of him, "…are found breaking the terms of the restraining orders, you will be arrested."
"We are Geet's parents…" Pammi began.
"And the baby's grand parents…" Gurinder added.
"Be that as it may…Dr. Khurana is the father of the child and the husband of the woman in question. Any decision he makes about his child cannot be contested. When it comes to Mrs. Khurana, due to the fact that she is incapacitated at the moment, as her husband any decision Dr. Khurana takes will hold until Mrs. Khurana is able to make decisions for herself," Dev informed.
"What nonsense…Maan Beta, you can't mean this," Savita said.
Maan didn't answer because Dev continued his rant – it was clear that even he was moved and affected by this situation.
"I suggest you get some legal counsel for yourselves," Dev said. "Due to you neglecting to provide proper medical care for Mrs. Geet Khurana and the then unborn fetus, you are subject to criminal charges being pressed."
"What?!" they all roared.
"With holding needed medical treatment is punishable by law and neglect is defined as a form of abuse," Dev added.
Maan didn't miss the smirk on Dev's face as he spoke.
"Maan…you wouldn't…" his mother said shocked.
"He may not, but I would…" Dev said under his breath.
A nurse came into the waiting room, dressed in bright pink scrubs that had the design of storks and babies.
"Dr. Khurana, you can come up and see your daughter now if you like," she said softly.
"Thank you," he said before the nurse walked away.
Maan turned to leave as Pammi Aunty called out to him.
"Maan don't do this," she said as her voice cracked. "A daughter needs her mother."
Maan stopped and turned back. He couldn't help but scoff at what she'd just said.
"I couldn't agree with you more Pammi Aunty, a daughter needs her mother," Maan said.
A spark of hope sprang in Pammi Auntys eyes at the comment.
"And because of you my daughter doesn't have her mother when she needs her the most," Maan added.
As he turned and walked away, he heard Pammi Aunty gasp and then begin to sob.
Maan sat in a chair next to the incubator that his daughter lay in. The second he had laid eyes on her tiny body, love, pain and fear all hit him at once. He felt so much love that he'd never felt for anyone before. An overwhelming sense of protectiveness flowed through him and he knew that he'd take on the entire world just to make sure that she was happy and safe. A dagger pierced his heart at the thought that she might be in pain and he couldn't do anything about it. Fear ran through his veins turning is blood cold at the thought of anyone or anything harming her. He'd already had so many dreams laid out for her, and the thought that he might not be able to experience them with her nearly scared him to death.
"Hi baby girl," he said softly, "I'm your Papa."
As Maan moved closer to the incubator, the protective gown her wore crinkled slightly.
Maan couldn't fight the tears the formed in his eyes.
His baby girl was lying in an incubator, hooked up to machines, and tubes. She was so tiny he could probably fit her in his palm. Her skin was so pale it was nearly transparent, as was the case for premature babies born as early as she was. Soft white gauze covered her eyes to keep the harsh lights from harming her still developing eyes.
His fatherly instincts kicked in - the primal need to protect her and save her. But he felt miserable knowing that there was nothing for him to do.
"Maan," someone called.
Turning around he saw Meera.
"You can see Geet now if you like," she said. "I set her up in one of the private ICU rooms."
"Thank you," Maan said.
He took one last look at his daughter before walking out of the NICU.
As Maan left the NICU, he walked past a small waiting area where he saw Naintara sitting.
"NT?" he asked.
When she looked up at him, he could see she was crying. She quickly got to her feet and wiped her tears.
"I'm…I'm so sorry," she said. "I should have never called Mamma. I just…I couldn't sit here helpless knowing Geet's life was on the line. She's my baby sister and I felt so useless. I never thought they'd come…I just needed someone to talk to. I'm so sorry…I just…I needed my Mom…"
Maan put a hand on her shoulder and said, "Shh…it's ok. I know you didn't mean it…and trust me, I understand."
Naintara broke down as Maan took her into his arms. He felt her clutch to him as if her life depended on it. He held her tight, because he too needed someone to hold on to.
"I'm going to see Geet…" he said as they broke apart. "Will you stay with the baby?"
"Of course," Naintara said as she wiped her tears.
"Just tell the nurses you are with the Khurana baby and they will guide you to her," Maan instructed.
He walked into the glass ICU room that Geet was being kept in. His breath caught as he entered the room. Geet – his wife – was hooked up to IV's, tubes and various machines. She looked like she was sleeping peacefully, while he was facing a storm of emotions.
Maan had always been on the other side of the glass looking in on the families of his patients sitting vigil for their loved ones. He never thought that he'd see the day where he would be on the inside; sitting and waiting for the woman he loved to wake up.
It had been over twenty-four hours since the entire nightmare began and still there was no change. As a doctor he always told his patients that no change was a good thing because it meant that things were not getting worse. He always held back the fact that no change also meant that things were not getting better.
"Hi honey," Maan said as he bent down and placed a kiss on Geet's forehead.
He smoothed down the blanket that covered her and took a seat in the chair next to the bed.
"Our daughter is really a fighter," he said as he took her hand. "Just like her mother."
He suddenly felt tears sting the back of his eyes.
"She still needs her mother, so you need to wake up ok," Maan said. "I can't do this without you Geet…our daughter needs you and I need you."
The tears spilled from his eyes as Maan laid his head down in her lap.
He sat alone in the small, dimly lit room. He sat with his eyes closed and head down while he silently prayed for the lives of his baby girl and his wife.
Between him, Naintara and Meera, someone was with Geet and the baby at all times. Maan wanted to be with both of them but that just wasn't possible. Yet he didn't want to leave either one of them alone. He needed them to know that people were here caring, worrying and praying for them. Between the girls helping him keep watch and Dev supplying them with coffee and food, he'd managed to get through so far.
The door behind him creaked and he heard foot steps.
"Maan?" he heard from behind him.
Turning, he saw Naintara standing just a few feet from him.
"What are you doing here?" Maan asked, not that he needed an answer.
She sat next to him before she answered.
"The nearest mandir is 20 miles away and I didn't want to leave the hospital," Naintara said. "Besides, mandir or chapel…in times of need…God is God."
Maan simply shook his head.
"What are you doing here?" she asked skeptically.
He couldn't ignore the look of shock on her face at finding him here – the chapel in the hospital.
"God is God right?" he asked.
"Yes, but if I remember correctly Dr. Khurana, you never were a believer in the higher power," she pointed out smugly.
Maan smiled slightly before he let out a sigh.
"I always believed in Geet," he said softly.
"And Chutki believed in God…" Naintara added.
The two of them sat in silence for a while as they prayed for Geet and the baby. The only sounds that could be heard were the muffled sounds of the paging system out in the hall.
"Why is this happening?" he asked.
His voice cracked as tears once again pooled in his eyes.
"Maan…" Naintara began as she placed a hand on his.
"Why? Haven't we been through enough? Hasn't Geet been through enough?" he asked. "She had to endure seven months of this pregnancy all on her own. The morning sickness, the fears, and the worries…all of it alone."
"She was carrying your child…that gave her strength. I know it," Naintara said.
"When I took her away from your parent's house and when I married her, I vowed that I'd never let anything happen to her or our baby…I…I couldn't keep my promise," he said dejectedly.
"Don't say that…" Naintara pleaded. "None of this is under your control."
"I feel so useless!" Maan yelled.
He got to his feet in frustration.
"Geet is lying in a bed unconscious while our baby is fighting to just stay alive…and all I can do is…NOTHING!"
"Maan you…" Naintara began.
Suddenly, they both fell silent.
"Did you hear that?" he asked.
"I…I did…but I thought you weren't on duty…" she said.
"I'm not…" Maan answered.
"Then why are they paging you?" Naintara asked, confused.
They stood in silence to hear the page again.
"Dr. Khurana to NICU stat…Dr. Khurana to NICU stat," the operator said.
"Why are they paging a cardiologist to NICU?" Naintara asked still confused.
Maan, who was running on no sleep and nearly no food, took a minute to comprehend what that page meant.
"Oh God," he whispered when realization hit him. "It's the baby."
He heard Naintara gasp as he ran out of the small chapel and headed towards the elevator. He pushed the button and waited for a few seconds before heading towards the stairs. He couldn't just stand and wait for the elevator not knowing what was happening with his daughter. He took the stairs two at a time as he raced up to the 5th floor where the NICU was.
He entered the security code that allowed him access.
"What? What happened?" he asked frantically as he approached the nurses desk.
Looking to his left, he tried to see his daughter but he couldn't because she was surrounded by nurses and Dr. Collins. Maan attempted to go in but was held back by the nurse at the desk.
"You can't go in there Dr. Khurana," she said.
"I have to go…that's my daughter," he said.
He pulled on his arm hard causing the nurse to lose her grip as he went flying into the glass. The jolt caught Dr. Collins attention, who then put a hand up indicating that Maan was to not enter.
Maan didn't care what Dr. Collins wanted, he had to get inside.
Maan had just taken a step forward when he felt someone tugging at his arm again.
"Let Dr. Collins work Maan," the voice said.
Turning around he saw Meera.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"When I heard them page you…I…I had to come," she said.
The two of them waited outside and were soon joined by Naintara.
Dr. Collins came out a few minutes later.
"What happened?" Maan asked immediately.
The doctor stood silent for a few seconds and then took a deep breath.
"She stopped breathing," he said. "So we had to put her on a ventilator."
Maan closed his eyes and fought tears. Opening them a second later, he walked over to the window that separated him from his daughter. He raised one hand and placed it on the glass.
His tiny baby girl already has so many things against her, but this one topped the list. Any time that the oxygen flow to the brain is cut, there is irreparable damage done in the form of losing brain cells. For her already tiny stature, every little bit mattered. For her, it could mean the difference between a normal development or abnormalities – it could mean the difference between life and death.
She was slipping away. He was loosing her…he just knew it.
He was so lost in his thoughts; he didn't hear anything else that was happening.
"Oh my God," he heard Meera and Naintara say.
"What?" he asked, holding his breath.
Neither of them said anything. A few seconds later he heard the page.
"Code Blue to ICU 5…Code Blue to ICU 5," the operator announced.
Maan's blood ran cold.
"Geet," he said, before once again racing across the hospital.
She was tired and thirsty and weak and alone.
In the dimly lit room that she was in, she was all alone.
When she'd first opened her eyes it was pitch black and took her a few seconds to focus. She was confused as to where she was. She wanted to stand up but felt a weight on her that didn't allow her to move one bit.
Instantly she called out to the one person that she knew would come running to help her – Maan.
She opened her mouth but oddly, no sound came out.
Then a thought hit her. Where was her baby?
She tried to lift her hands to feel her belly where her baby rested but she couldn't move them.
How was her baby?
She lay still trying to feel even the slightest movement from her baby, when suddenly she remembered. She remembered her panic when she discovered something was wrong. She remembered the sudden pain that shot through her abdomen as she went in search of help. And the last thing she remembered was calling to Maan before everything went black.
Her baby…where was her baby?
She felt panicked once again. She tried and tried but couldn't move. All she could feel was a numbing pain in her stomach.
She felt tears sting her eyes and then wet her face as they rolled down, but she couldn't do anything to wipe them
Where was Maan? She needed him? Was he with their baby? What happened? Where was everyone?
Why was she alone?
The tears continued to flow.
She was tired and weak and…alone.
As he ran down the hall with Meera and Naintara trailing him, he saw the nurses pulling in a crash cart into Geet's room.
"What happened?" Meera asked as she entered, pushing past Maan.
"Her pressure dropped suddenly and the machine's started beeping due to asystole," a nurse said.
Her heart has stopped beating.
Meera took her stethoscope, put the buds in her ear and the chest piece to Geet's chest to listen for a heart beat. Maan heard her mutter a curse as she put the stethoscope out and took the electrical panels of the defibrillator from the nurse at hand.
She placed the panels in their appropriate places.
"Clear!" she yelled as she pressed the button.
A jolt of electricity flowed through Geet, causing her body to jerk.
The machine was still flat lining.
"Come on Geet," Meera said.
The other nurse continued chest compressions.
"Clear!" Meera yelled again.
Another jolt through Geet.
The monitor still flat lined.
She'd been alone for so long, it seemed like a life time. She tried to move and to yell so she could get someone's attention but she couldn't do anything. She just lay on her bed staring up at the dark ceiling.
She'd often felt that Maan was near but she couldn't see him or hear him. She'd often felt him touching her hand, and kissing her forehead but she had no idea where he was.
Today, she heard muffled commotion, she heard beeping, she heard yelling and the clanking of metal.
She'd stopped attempting to move – it was a battle she wasn't going to win.
She continued to cry while she lay in the dim room not knowing where she was or how here baby was.
She suddenly felt stinging all over her body, like it was on fire.
The room began to lose what illumination it had – it was getting darker.
That's when she heard him – she heard Maan. He was calling out to her.
She felt a sense of relief. He finally came looking for her. He knew she needed him and here he was.
She tried to call to him too, but she couldn't. She tried to get up, but she couldn't. She tried to fight, but she couldn't. She was weak and had no fight left in her. Still, she tried to call to him.
The room was plunging into darkness. She fought with all she could but the darkness was closing in on her.
Maan felt like his heart was going to pop out of his chest, it was beating so fast. She had to respond, she just had to.
"Come on Geet…come on honey…come back," Maan kept repeating.
Maan felt his heart clench and stop.
The monitor…still flat lined.
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