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Excerpt for Catching A Miracle by , available in its entirety at Smashwords
















Catching A


Miracle









Mark J. Spinicelli


































Copyright © 2015 Mark J. Spinicelli


All rights reserved.





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DEDICATION



This book is dedicated to those brave individuals who have been forced to battle a disease that takes so many lives each year, and to the families who walk the difficult path with them.


Catching A Miracle was created to offer hope, encouragement, or at least thought-provoking entertainment.


The notion that a cure is out there is not far-fetched. A number of recent advances could turn this fictional read into reality. A 2011 report claimed scientists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, discovered the cure, but it has yet to materialize. Israeli scientists have found rat cells secrete a substance that destroys cancer cells in humans.



Catching A Miracle is the first of a trilogy:


Catching A Miracle


To Kristen Elizabeth Spinicelli


When God reaches down into the garden of humanity, he always grabs the brightest flower.



Catching A Miracle: The Hunt For Hans


To Joseph “Joe” Carney


You were right, I became everything others said I could never be.



Catching A Miracle: Sparrow in the Fog


For my wife, Susan.


CONTENTS



Acknowledgements………………………………………………….i


Synopsis……………………………………………………………..iii


Chapter 1……………………………………………………….…….1


Chapter 2…………………………………………………….……….6


Chapter 3…………………………………………………...……….14


Chapter 4…………………………………………………...……….21


Chapter 5…………………………………………………...……….24


Chapter 6……………...…………………………………………….32


Chapter 7……………………………………...…………………….39


Chapter 8……………………………………...…………………….46


Chapter 9………………………………………...………………….60


Chapter 10……………………………..………...………………….70


Chapter 11…..…………………………………...………………….75


Chapter 12…………….……………………...…….……………….90


Chapter 13…………………………………...…………………….112


Chapter 14……………………………………...………………….123


Chapter 15………………………………………...……………….127


Chapter 16………………………………………...……………….136


Chapter 17……………………………………...………………….155


Chapter 18……………………………………..…….…………….169


Chapter 19……………………………………..…….…………….178


Chapter 20………………………………………..….…………….186

















ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS



The work on Catching A Miracle has been a unique undertaking that has spanned three years. From the beginning it has been a slow but steady trail with my ever-talented wife Susan, an avid reader who assisted in the reader experience department. Susan’s help in advising as to what works and what to edit out was critical to this story.


Throughout the project and for seventeen years before, Candice Davis proved her talent in copyright, legal and all the elements it takes to get this project completed. Without her at my side, I would never be as successful as I am today with all of my companies.


Thanks also go out to:


Cindy Huckabee for being the eagle eye who keeps me on the straight path of doing things the way they have to be.


Alton Gansky, who took time away from being a professor to help me with the entire Catching a Miracle trilogy. His talents enable us to provide this story and trilogy.


David Gentilella of DIGITTO Media for leading the way in getting this book from manuscript to the book you see now.


Finally, the reason for this story, my loving sister Kristen and my mentor Joe Carney, both of whom succumbed to cancer in 1985. Kristen was a nurse who specialized in treating children with brain damage. Her “kids,” as she called them, were her life and she is buried next to many of them in Orlando.



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Joe Carney was the man who would tell an eighteen-year-old high school drop-out that what I had to do was go out and be everything people said I could never be, successful.


Kristen and Joe have been the driving force that makes us wonder when we hear, “There’s nothing more we can do.” Will you accept that, or simply stand with us and say, “I bet you are wrong.”?


To me, Catching a Miracle is more than a book, it is a blueprint to another way.












































ii















SYNOPSIS



Under the watchful eyes of Dr. Gregory Wall, eight-year-old Shelly White and her best friend and roommate, Kristen, fight for their lives at St. Theresa’s Hospital for Children. After Dr. Wall has tried everything, Shelly’s cancer disappears overnight in what becomes the hospital’s first miracle. Yet as Shelly leaves the hospital, she sees Dr. Wall rush to Kristen’s bedside, where her best friend loses her battle against cancer.


Thirty years later, Dr. Shelly White works alongside her mentor in order to save other children. At a fundraiser to honor Kristen, she meets advertising executive Nicholas Harris, who along with his father, Salvatore, will change her life and possibly wipe cancer off the face of the earth. With the help of Nick and his father’s high-profile friends, an idea becomes a quest to find a cure.


Catching A Miracle is a unique and fast-paced story of compassion, intrigue, and power about a group of people who each have a reason to stop a killer… by trying a different approach: greed.












iii
















CHAPTER 1



October 1972


From the doorway of Room 1604 in the children’s ward, Nurse Doris Powers watched the celebration in the reception area a short distance down the hall. A child going home was always a reason to celebrate.


Nurse Doris smiled and waved to some of the parents she had grown to know, all the while keeping a keen eye on the pale little girl lying in the bed a few feet away. Above the bed loomed machines monitoring her vital signs. The readings were not good. The children’s laughter in the lobby faded from Doris’ ears as she focused on her patient. The child lay unconscious, curled in a fetal position.


The celebration was almost over, the eight-year-old honoree whisked away in her wheelchair by her mother as smiling children chattered and waved goodbye. Doris saw right through the smiles on their faces and knew they wished with all their might they were going home too. But few ever did. The nurse’s eyes locked with those of the brown-haired girl in the wheelchair as if thanking each other for sharing the past four months of their lives.


A sound snapped Doris’ attention back to the patient in the bed. It was a sound she had been dreading, a sound she desperately wished she would not hear.


The monitors shrilled.



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Her patient was flat-lining.


Doris punched the room’s intercom button. “Code blue 1604! Code 1604.”


A moment later, a calm, authoritative voiced oozed from overhead speakers. “Code blue, 1604. Code blue, 1604.”


The ten-year-old’s eyes twitched. Her body shook. She soiled the bed.


Doris pushed back the bed curtain, the side table, and anything else that might hamper the code team’s action.


“She’s coding!” Doris told the first doctor to enter the room. Dr. Gregory Wall studied the monitors. He stood tall, calm, his


face an impassive mask, but his eyes told the real story. Wall was black, in his thirties, and just a year out of the Navy Medical Corps, and, at six feet two inches tall, could be a bit intimidating. Yet he was a champion for children, and every pain they felt hurt him.


The rest of his medical team appeared at the patient’s side. One pushed the crash cart into the room.


Wall rattled off commands. “Adrenalin. Five hundred CCs.”


A second later one of the resuscitation nurses handed Wall the demanded drug.


“Okay, little one,” he whispered, “let’s not ruin a perfectly good day.” He stabbed her chest with the needle. “C’mon, give me something …”


“We’re losing her.” Doris’ words were steady but awash with fear.


Wall swore. “Compressions.”

An intern began CPR.


Wall called for the defibrillator and with practiced motions placed the paddles and sent an electrical charge across the child’s heart.

She gurgled. The monitors showed no heartbeat.


“Clear!” Hands raised in the air and bodies moved from the rails. The girl’s body jumped again from the electrical surge, then shook as it fell back on the sheets. The doctor tried again to revive her. No change. She went limp. The team bowed their heads. An intern took notes while a nurse wiped a tear from her eye. Dr. Wall faced Doris.


“We could try …” he offered.





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Doris shook her head. She was young, just 27, but had been a nurse long enough to know the truth. “She’s gone, Doctor.”


He laid a hand on the dead child’s head. Doris saw it shake. She had once asked him if he got used to the pain and death. “The day I get used to seeing children die is the day I leave medicine forever.” “Sometimes the Lord gives us miracles, Doctor. Sometimes he

takes the little ones home,” Doris said. “It’s time to let go.”

“There was nothing more I could do,” Dr. Wall said. A tear


formed in the corner of his right eye. “Five months of treatment and we end up losing her.”


“You did everything right, Doctor.” She placed her hand on his. “Remember, the first rule of medicine is that patients die. And rule number two?”


“You can’t change rule number one.” He nodded.


“I’ll get a gurney.” She stood up and rubbed the small of her back. “You okay?”


“I just want to stay with her a few minutes,” he said as the light over the bed began to flicker. He looked at Doris Powers and then up at the bulb. She smiled.


“If you’re up there, child, how about fixing that thing, would you?” she asked with eyes to the ceiling. The bulb went dark, flickered again, and returned to a bright, steady light. They both smiled. “See that, Doctor Wall?” the nurse said. “She made it.”


*****


In the lobby, the party atmosphere turned to dread, at least for those old enough to know what was happening.


The guest of honor stretched her neck to see what room was causing all the commotion—her old room. That’s what she’d feared. A pit formed in her stomach. She was so frightened for her friend that she wanted to scream. She wanted to run back to her room and help. Tears leaked from her eyes as her mother pushed the wheelchair faster toward the exit.


JUNE 1972


The linoleum floors of the hospital appeared to gleam with enthusiasm about the little feet that now walked their pathways



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with hopes of getting better. The state-of-the-art, five-story St. Theresa’s Children’s Hospital was the toast of the town. A circular driveway lead to the main entrance off Hope Drive. In the corner of the waiting area, a black and white television on a curio cabinet displayed re-runs of The Lucy Show. A single parent sat nearby, nervously leafing through Life magazine.


St. Theresa’s had opened a few months before and focused primarily on the treatment of children with cancer. Beds were filling up with children from all walks of life. Some could not afford to pay, and many of the families were indigent, but the Board of Directors vowed they would never turn a child away.


*****


The lobby was clean and stark and it worried Shelly White. It reminded her of the building she had visited before her father died. The smell was the same. Her mom held Shelly tightly in her arms as she walked through the lobby. Her mother’s embrace comforted her some, but she wished to be home instead of this place. They had driven two hours to get to the hospital.


Shelly squirmed a little in her mother’s arms. She was getting too big to be carried my her mom, but she was too weak to stand for long let alone walk very far.


“Welcome to St. Theresa’s.” The calm voice seemed to break Shelly’s mom out of her trance. “I am Dr. Gregory Wall. Who do we have here?” He held out his arms to Shelly.


Shelly looked at the tall black man in the white doctor’s smock. His smile was wide and she thought she saw a twinkle in his eyes. Shelly’s mom tightened her hold as if she was not sure whether to hand Shelly over to the stranger.


“So you’re not feeling too well, little one?” Dr. Wall asked Shelly.


She buried her face into her mother’s chest.

He asked Shelly’s mom, “May I take her?”


Her mother started to hand her to the doctor, but Shelly tightened her grip. “No!”


“She’s just scared, that’s all,” her mom said. “Let the nice doctor take you, okay, Shelly? He wants to help us.”


“I-I guess.” When Shelly raised her head again, she saw tears on her mother’s cheek.



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Catching A Miracle



Dr. Wall took Shelly in his arms. She didn’t resist but kept her eyes on her mother. The smell and strangeness of the place, her mother’s tears, the big man who insisted on holding her frightened her all the more.


“Well, then, let’s see if we can make you better, young lady.” He carried her down the hall. Her mom tried to keep pace alongside.


“I’m new to this area,” said Dr. Wall. “Something made me come to this hospital. It’s a special place. I like its mission. I like what they do. And it’s not just kids with cancer, we work with all children.”


“We were told this was the best place to go. We’re hoping you can do something for Shelly.”


Dr. Wall arrived at the nurses’ station cradling Shelly.


“I have a young lady who needs assistance here. Could we have a check-up for Miss Shelly, please?” He smiled and lowered Shelly into a gleaming silver wheelchair that smelled like plastic. “I’ll leave you here with these fine folks, but don’t get too comfortable, because I want you running out of here soon. You understand?”


“Yes, sir,” Shelly fidgeted in the wheelchair, trying to find a comfortable position. A pulse of pain ratcheted through her chest. She winced and sighed, wondering what was going to happen next. Suddenly, she felt faint. Maybe she was about to throw up.


“Thank you,” her mom said as the doctor left down an opposite hallway. She caressed Shelly’s sweat-dampened hair.


A nurse leaned over the counter. “Shelly, I’m Doris Powers. Do you have a last name, Shelly?”


“Yes. White.”

“Hi, I’m Carol White, Shelly’s mother.”


“Nice to meet you. Now, what seems to be the problem?” “Well, Shelly was a normal little girl, ,” Carol said. “Then, one


day in the backyard, she became too weak to play with her friends. Over the next few days, her skin began to change color, and I had no idea what to do. I’m afraid our insurance isn’t very good.”

“Don’t worry about the money, Mrs. White. Let’s just take care of Shelly. Sound good?”


Carol’s eyes welled up with tears. She turned away from the counter, crouched down, and kissed Shelly on the forehead. Shelly looked up at her mother.


“Don’t cry, Mom. It’ll be okay.”


Shelly hoped that was true.



5















CHAPTER 2



Dr. Gregory Wall stood at the foot of the exam table. Seated on the table was his newest patient, Shelly White. The child sat quietly, her hands folded in her lap. Shelly looked drawn and tired. She had a right to look that way. After she’d endured two days of tests, Wall and other doctors determined cancer cells from a large tumor were attacking her, robbing her of her strength and energy. Carol White, standing by her daughter, also looked drawn and tired, but from fear.


Wall loved the practice of medicine, but there were times when he hated it. This was one of them. No matter how often he had to inform parents that their child had cancer, it still gutted him. Some doctors learned to remove the emotion from such conversations, but Wall lacked that ability. The words, “We found cancer,” still burned in his throat.


Carol had checked her daughter in for treatment. What choice did she have? Wall and St. Teresa’s offered some hope, and she had to do everything she could to save Shelly.


Nurses had set up a little room for Carol to stay to avoid the two-hour drive back and forth from home.


Explaining cancer to adults was easy. It was so widespread that almost everyone knew someone stricken the disease. Children Shelly’s age had trouble understanding what was wrong with them. Wall had become adept at making the complicated sound simple. One thing he couldn’t do was make it easy to hear.



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Catching A Miracle



“Cancer is like rust,” he explained to Shelly. “Did you ever get rust on your bike?”


Shelly shrugged. “Sometimes, near the wheel.”


“Well. Our job is to use the best medicine made to get the rust out. Understand?”


She nodded and pressed her dry lips together.


“You see, this place is for kids just like you. This is a hospital for children and it’s named after St. Teresa. Do you know who St. Theresa is, Shelly?”

“No, sir.”


“Well, St. Theresa is a Roman Catholic saint. You just can’t go wrong when you have St. Theresa on your side. So let’s see if St. Theresa can make a miracle happen for you.”


Shelly looked up as he continued to explain.


“You may need to work hard, so are you ready to fight something I call a war against cancer?”


“My daddy died in the war.”


Wall looked at Carol, then turned back to Shelly. “I am so sorry to hear that.” He leaned in toward Shelly and glanced at Carol.


“Let’s get you to your room and meet your new roommate,” he said. He stood and grabbed the handles of her wheelchair.


“Well, that sounds like fun, huh, Shel?” Carol chimed in. A nurse joined them as they traveled down the hall to Room 1604.


“Hi, my name is Kristen,” said her ten-year-old roommate. Kristen was fighting cancer of the adrenal gland, a very rare type that Dr. Wall had been trying to combat with everything he knew.


Shelly extended a meager wave, looking around the room with two beds, a sitting area, and plain white walls. It smelled like medicine.

“So, what’s wrong with you?” Kristen asked.

“I have cancer,” Shelly said matter-of-factly.


“We all have cancer,” Kristen responded. “Some are really bad, and some are not so bad. Mine’s bad. Is yours?”


“I don’t know. Dr. Wall said it was called a tumor.” “Is that a bad one?”.


A nurse helped Shelly get settled into her bed. “All cancer is bad, sweetheart.”


“You guys get to know each other,” Dr. Wall said. “I need to take Shelly’s mom outside for a minute. Okay?”



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*****


“My mom worries about me,” Shelly said after they left. “Well,” said Kristen, “you’re lucky you have a mom.” “What do you mean?”


“My mom died last year. They say she died from the well water. They say that’s where I got cancer. So the state brought me here after my mom went to heaven.”


Shelly lowered her head. “My daddy died in the war.” The room fell silent for a moment.


“Doc Wall is great,” Kristen said. “He does magic tricks sometimes!”


Shelly lay on the bed and listened to her new roommate, who was obviously lonely and had been waiting to talk to someone.


“The nurses are kind of like moms to me, so it’s nice here,” she continued.


“I don’t really like hospitals,” Shelly said.


The light above Kristen’s bed began to flicker.


“There it goes again.” Kristen laughed and pointed. “They’ve replaced that thing three times. For some reason, it likes to go out. Funny, huh?”


Carol, Doris, and Dr. Wall returned to the room and found the girls giggling.


“Okay ladies, it’s time to—” Dr. Wall paused, seeing the light show that had become a regular occurrence in Room 1604. “Again with your light, Kristen?”


Kristen smiled at Dr. Wall, then suddenly winced in pain. The room became quiet. Shelly looked around. What was going to happen next? Dr. Wall broke the silence. “I think a little medicine would be in order here, Doris,” he said to the nurse.


Kristen’s body was now doubled over into a fetal position. The sight made Shelly want to cry.


*****


Three months after her admission to the hospital and the start of her cancer treatment, Shelly was starting to feel closer to Dr. Wall. He always took time to explain what was being done and why. She



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Catching A Miracle



did her best to understand. Dr. Wall monitored her x-rays personally and kept her and her mother informed. Radiation was being streamed into her chest to shrink the tumor so he could operate to remove it. Dr. Wall explained that reducing its size before surgery would give Shelly the best chance of remission.


Although Kristen continued to struggle through the pain, she and Shelly had become inseparable. Together they laughed and counted the times the bulb over Kristen’s bed needed to be replaced—each one was a big event for them. It was now up to six.


“Let’s see if we can get it up to ten,” Shelly said. But there was no response. Kristen had fallen asleep again, something that happened a lot after the treatments. Shelly decided to be adventurous. She got out of bed and peeked into the hall. She saw a ten-year-old boy walking the corridor with an IV stand. His eyes met hers, and she pulled back.


“Hi, I’m Chucky.”


Shelly peered back around the door jamb, then stepped outside her room.


“What is that?” Shelly pointed at the portable IV stand. “Supposed to kill off the bad stuff, but it just makes me want to


pee a lot.”

She giggled. “I’m Shelly. Do you have cancer, too?”


“I got here a while ago. I have to fight it myself, but my family stays with me a lot.” That sounded familiar to Shelly. Dr. Wall must be taking care of Chucky.

As they talked, the floor nurse spotted them.


“Keep walking, Mr. Chucky, and Miss White, back to your bed.” Doris Powers ran a tough ward. No one snuck out of their room

without her knowing it.


“I’m in 1648,” Chucky said as he made his way back down the hall. “Come visit if they ever let you walk around.” He smiled at Doris.


“You better not let me catch you wandering these halls again without my permission, Mr. Chucky. Now shoo!”


Doris followed Shelly into her room. She fluffed her pillow, then sat on the edge of Kristen’s bed. Shelly watched her dab Kristen’s forehead with a damp washcloth.


By now, the radiation was taking a toll on Shelly. Her hair had begun to fall out in clumps. Shelly’s mom took Dr. Wall’s advice



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and planned a haircutting party. They all laughed as Carol made zigzag patterns on Shelly’s head. Her hair fell to the white sheet spread on the floor. “Mine did the same thing, but no one cut it for me,” said Kristen. “Mine just fell out!”


“You sure it’s going to grow back, Mom?” Shelly asked.

“I promise. And so will yours, Kristen,” Carol said.


On cue, the bulb over Kristen’s bed blew again. “That’s number seven!” the girls blurted out in unison.


*****


“While Shelly is showing great improvement,” Dr. Wall told Carol as they walked toward the girls’ room after visiting the cafeteria one day, “Kristen is not. We have tried everything, and I just don’t know what else to do. I will say Shelly has the makings of a great nurse. See?”


As they walked into the room, they found Shelly standing next to a sleeping Kristen and wiping her lips. “She seems to like ice on her lips, Doc.”


He looked at Kristen’s IV and then at Shelly. “You know, I was just telling your mom you could be a great nurse someday.”


“Nah,” she said. “I don’t want to be a nurse.” “But you seem so good at it.”


“I don’t want to be a nurse, Doc. I want to be a doctor like you. I was going to ask you—when I get better, will you help me be like you and help people like her?” Shelly pointed at Kristen.


The young doctor looked at Shelly and then at Carol.


“I would be honored to help you,” he told Shelly. “All the way through high school, college, and medical school. But you have to study. You have to study hard. You think you can do that?”


“If you’ll help me.”


“Then we have a deal.” Dr. Wall beaming his bright, big smile. “For now, let’s let Kristen sleep, and we’ll go take a few x-rays. Back in the wheelchair, miss.”


“See you, K,” Shelly yelled to her roommate as Dr. Wall pushed her from the room.


“Shh. She needs her sleep.”





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Catching A Miracle



As he wheeled her down the hall, Shelly noticed room 1648. “Hey, that’s Chucky’s room! Where’s Chucky?” she asked as the open door revealed its emptiness.


“How do you know Chucky?” Carol asked.


“He walked by my room a few weeks ago. Did he go home?” Dr. Wall continued pushing the wheelchair down the corridor.


“Yes, honey, he went home a few days ago.”


“He’s really nice,” Shelly said. “I‘m glad you made him better. I hope you can do that for Kristen, too. You think you can?”


“We’re trying, honey. We’re trying real hard. So say a little prayer for her. Can you do that?”


“Sure I can do that.” Shelly beamed, craning her neck backward to be sure Wall could see her. “That’s easy.”


*****


Radiologist Phil Thompson arrived at the main nurses’ station out of breath, stopping Wall, who was just about to turn down the hall of the west wing to check on a patient.


“I need to see you about Shelly White,” Phil said. “I have her film.”


Dr. Wall stopped in his tracks and turned, fearing the worst. “You ran over here? It’s bad news?”


“More like weird news,” he said.

“What do you mean, weird?”


“These films, Doc,” he said, holding up the x-rays. “They’re clean.”


Wall stepped back trying to process what Phil was saying, unable to believe what he had just heard. Yet Phil would not joke about such matters. He waited for him to continue.


“Doc, I’m telling you, these films are clean. No tumor. No spots. Zip. There is nothing there. I checked all her previous films, compared them, and it’s gone.”


Dr. Wall stared at him for a moment, then pulled him aside. “Give me those. A grapefruit-sized tumor does not just


disappear overnight.” He walked into the lounge and placed the film on a wall-mounted light board. Phil stood behind him. “I’ll be damned.” The gray outlines of Shelly’s chest showed no sign of the tumor. “A cancer miracle may be in our midst.”



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“Doc, we look at these every day and see nothing but bad news. It’s a good day when we see good film, but this, this is a miracle.”


Wall nodded. “Let’s play this safe,” he said without taking his eyes off the film. “Do another round of x-rays, but keep this quiet until we get those back. Got it? I’ll order a new blood draw.”

“You bet, Doc.”


Phil raced to Shelly’s room as Dr. Wall stayed, studying the x-rays alone. “Shelly, my dear, you may be one lucky little girl.”


*****


It took a painstaking two days for all of Shelly’s new tests to come back.


“You ladies have a moment to talk?” Dr. Wall asked after knocking on the door of room 1604. Carol nodded, not speaking. She pointed to a sleeping Kristen. Shelly looked up and smiled.


“Let’s go out in the sitting area for a minute,” he whispered. Carol and Shelly sat on the faux leather couch. Shelly cradled


her arms against her chest and dangled her feet off the edge, peering down to see how much taller she would have to be to sit on a regular couch and reach the floor.


“What’s going on, Dr. Wall? How is the treatment working?” Carol asked.


“Yes, yes, it’s fine.” He took a breath. “The treatment, Mrs. White? The treatment worked. That’s the thing. And quite frankly, I have no idea how this happened, but the tumor is gone. Not smaller, not shrinking. It’s gone as if it was never there. We double checked x-rays, ran new blood work, and it has disappeared …”


“You mean I can go home!” Shelly shrieked, interrupting the doctor.


Carol broke down and began to cry—the emotions she had suppressed for the past few months unleashed.


Dr. Wall smiled, but a single tear collected in his right eye. “You betcha, young lady.” He flashed Shelly an even wider smile. “And we are going to have a little party to celebrate, if that’s okay with you, Miss Shelly.”


She jumped up and gave him a big hug. “Thank you,” she whispered in his ear.





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*****


A couple days later, as promised, Shelly had her party and packed to go home. She was so happy with the balloons and cake, but was saddened that Kristen was not going home with her. She wouldn’t be here to help her friend and put ice on her dry lips and talk to her when she woke up. “I don’t even get to see if the light goes out ten times,” she said to her mom.


By now the nursing staff, as well as most of the workers at St. Theresa’s, were buzzing about the miracle girl whose cancer simply vanished. They were calling her “the miracle child,” and she was becoming a star. Doctors and nurses stopped by to say hello. Parents of sick children asked Carol what she did to make such a miracle happen. “I prayed,” she said. “I asked for a miracle, and I got it.”


Shelly hopped in her wheelchair for the last time and said her goodbyes to the nurses, the doctors, the staff, Dr. Wall, and all of the friends she had met who had come to see her go home. She was happy that she had already said goodbye to Kristen earlier when she was awake.


As her mom pushed her down the hall toward the doors leading out of the hospital and into the fresh, cool, Atlanta air, the code alarm suddenly went off. Doctors and nurses rushed into the room in answer to the alarm.


Shelly’s eyes caught Dr. Wall’s as he ran past her. He paused long enough to look at Shelly, but said nothing and continued on as the crash cart was wheeled into Room 1604. Shelly would remember that moment forever. No matter how her mom or Dr. Wall tried to shield Shelly from this fact, she knew she was going home and Kristen was dying. And there was nothing she could do about it. As her mom whisked her away, Shelly could just barely make out Dr. Wall’s voice barking orders as he tried one last time to save Kristen’s life.











13















CHAPTER 3



October 2007


Dr. Shelly White strolled down the hall toward the nurses’ station with a cheerful, happy step. She silently celebrated the anniversary of her release from St. Theresa’s and she was feeling a bit giddy. These were the same halls she’d walked as a cancer patient in 1972. Now, thirty-five years later, she patrolled the corridors as a bona fide healer alongside the great Dr. Wall. The young, spunky Nurse Doris had grown to be an older, plumper Nurse Doris, who still ran the ward like a prison matron. Part of her job was to keep young patients in their rooms and ensure their safety. It was a work she had been doing for a long time and one she was well suited for.


“Well, hello there, Doctor,” Wall said. He stood at the nurses’ station, leaning on the counter.

“And to you as well, Doctor.”


Doris, who sat behind the counter making notes in files, gazed over her glasses. “You two need something? Are you waiting for me to get you some coffee? Hmmm?”


“I would love a latte.” Shelly nodded. “Dr. Wall?”


“Oh, great,” Doris said. “All right then. I’ll tell you what. All you need to do is go to this little room we call the doctors’ lounge. There’s a coffee machine there. Get it yourself.”


Shelly raised an eyebrow. She recognized stress when she saw it. “You’re not having a good day, are you, Doris?”



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“Well, look around, Doc. We got kids in all the rooms and they are all jumping up and down, and I am down two nurses, and to top it off, I still have to go pick up my dress for your Kristen Foundation event tonight. And I need to fix my hair.”


“I’m sorry about your day, Doris,” Shelly said. “But tonight will be fun. The band has a great funk sound.” Doris looked up at her and Shelly got the smile she was looking for.


She and Dr. Wall had created the Kristen Foundation to help raise funds for research programs at St. Theresa’s. Launched when Shelly graduated from medical school at the University of Florida, the fund had raised close to five million dollars. “With any luck, we may be able to buy that new centrifuge machine this year,” Shelly said. “And some playground equipment.”


Wall perked up. “Let’s just concentrate on the little guys in their rooms now, shall we?”


Shelly leaned in toward Doris as she collected her files and messages. “You are going to look great tonight. Are you bringing anybody?”


“Are you kidding?” Doris blurted out. “We have everybody who’s anybody in Atlanta going to be there and I’m going to bring some guy? I’m fishing for my man, which is what you should be doing, too, darling.”


Up to now, Shelly had avoided dating. She had focused solely on working with her kids.


"From the movers and the shakers of Atlanta to the CEO of UPS,” Doris continued. “And you know I looked at the guest list and saw that Nick Harris is going to be there. That’s a fine hunk of man, baby.”


Shelly gathered up her charts and looked at Doris. “Thanks for the tip, but how does he matter to my kids? I’d love a check from him like anyone else, but other than that, no thanks.”


“Look, the man is a successful businessman, a nice picture to look at … who knows, you might get lucky!"


“I believe it would be he who would be lucky,” said Wall, “and Shelly, if I were you, I would avoid him like the plague. From what I hear he is a bit of a man about town, and you don’t need that.”


“Tell you what, Doris,” Shelly said. “If you have an opportunity to go out with him, you do it and tell us all about it.”





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Wall faced Shelly. "So you're a great doctor and a hopeless romantic. Is that about right?”


“Don’t get sarcastic with me,” Shelly said with a smile. “Just remember, I’m here to help sick kids, not to get set up with some guy. So, Doris, he’s all yours." She smirked and walked down the hall.


*****


“You know, Doris,” Wall said. “I love her like a daughter. That’s why I can’t see her with Nick Harris. I’ve heard too much about him.”


“I don’t think you’re giving him enough credit,” she said. “I think he’s a good guy.”

“I doubt it.”


*****


The pre-function area leading to the ballroom was spectacular, with turn-of-the-twentieth-century chandeliers dangling from the thirty-foot, fresco-adorned rotunda ceiling. Shelly and Wall stood by the entrance, greeting guests as they arrived for the fundraiser. The Kristen Foundation logo glowed from the nearest wall.


Shelly spied a dark-haired man about five feet ten, in his mid-thirties, with a smile on his face, shaking hands with other guests as they came in. He stood next to Jerry Lamont from AdWorks, who had been doing some pro bono work for the Foundation. She wondered if the handsome sidekick was Jerry’s co-worker, the infamous Nick Harris. Both men relocated to a quiet corner to survey the crowd.


*****


“Looks like the whole town turned out for this one,” Nick said to Jerry. “There's Don from UPS. And here comes Marie Mellon.” Adjusting their postures to the form their moms had taught them, they both met the eyes of St. Theresa’s executive director. Marie was the face of St. Theresa’s and known as the queen of the hospital. She had seen Nick grow up, as his mom had served on the Board



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Catching A Miracle



before she got sick and Marie had watched Jane bravely fight her battle with cancer.


Marie’s smile broadened as she approached. “This is a bit of a surprise,” she said. “I’ve never seen you guys at one of our events.” She put out her hand, which Nick took, and then leaned forward to offer a kiss on her cheek.


“Well,” he said, “Jerry said I should come by to meet some of the important people of Atlanta.”


Jerry aimed a not-so-subtle evil eye at Nick and quickly returned his gaze to Marie, extending his hand. “Jerry Lamont. Great to see you again.”


Marie shook his hand, then turned back to Nick. “You’ll have to do better than that.”


“Truth be told,” Nick said, “Dad told me if we were ever going to start our own agency, I’d better meet the entire town, and I hear this is where the entire town is tonight.”


“Now that I can believe,” Marie said. “So when is this new business venture happening?”


“One day. But right now, I do what Mom told me to do last year. Take care of Dad.”


“Your mom was such a class act, Nick. I was so sorry to hear about your losing her. How is Sal doing?”


"Dad’s fine.” Nick smiled. “Always cooking up a storm at home. The only concern I have about Dad is his persistence in dating the neighbor across the street.”


“The neighbor across the street?” Marie asked. “That may be just the thing for him.”


“Good Lord, it might kill him,” Jerry retorted. “She’s forty!” “Actually, she's forty-four, widowed, and a flight attendant for


American Airlines. But Jerry is right, she could kill him. And then I would have to wipe that smile off his face before his wake.” Jerry rolled his eyes at Nick’s off-color comment.


“Well, please tell him I said hi.” Marie moved away to greet a couple who had just walked by, then tilted her head back. “Let me know if I can help with your new venture.”

“Thank you, Marie,” Nick said.


He and Jerry stepped back from the crowd and sipped champagne inconspicuously delivered by a silent waiter carrying a silver tray of glasses.



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“Who’s that?” Nick nodded toward a beautiful brunette walking toward them. She stood about five feet seven, wore a sparkling blue dress, had a gorgeous figure, and exuded confidence. “Have I ever told you how much I like the color blue?” Nick added.


“That’s Dr. Shelly White, Nick. She’s the one who started the Foundation with Dr. Wall over there. She’s all about the kids at St. Theresa’s. They call her the miracle.”


“Wow, she’s stunning. Do you know her, Jer?”


“We talked a few times. I put together their logo for them.” Jerry pointed to the wall just beyond where Dr. Wall was standing. “Want to meet her?”


Nick looked at his friend as if he was crazy. “Is this a trick question? Of course I would. And I don’t have a date for Saturday night. She would make for a perfect evening.”

“Cool it,” Jerry said. “She’s coming our way.”

Shelly approached, smiling at her other guests along the way.

“Hello, Dr. White,” said Jerry.

“Hello, Mr. Lamont, thanks so much for coming.”


“My pleasure. I’d like to introduce my friend and colleague, Nick Harris, from AdWorks.


“Nick Harris?” she asked.

“Yes.” He extended his hand.


Shelly took it. “I was just talking to some of my colleagues about you this afternoon.”


"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” he asked.


“Well, I hear you make some pretty funny commercials.” “I have my moments. Have you seen any of them?”


“Not that I know of. I spend most of my time with the kids at the hospital. If I do have spare time, I read to them, so TV isn’t really big for me. Oh, Jerry, by the way, thanks so much for your help tonight.”


“With the logo?” asked Jerry. “Yes, and we love it, by the way.”


Jerry smiled. “I’m very glad to hear that.”


“So what’s the Kristen Foundation all about, Dr. White?” asked Nick, trying to keep the conversation going.


“Back in 1972, I was a patient at St. Theresa’s. A young doctor from the Navy saved my life. That would be Dr. Wall over there.” She pointed. “I spent four months here. And shared a room with a



18

Catching A Miracle



girl named Kristen. I was eight, she was ten. Her dad, like mine, had been killed in Vietnam, and her mother died from the same kind of cancer that would eventually kill Kristen. She was so alone. She lost her life on the day I left. She died just as I was heading out the door to go home. So, I made a promise that I would do what no one else had done.”


“What’s that?” Nick asked.


“Find a way to stop cancer. For good. When I got out of college, Dr. Wall and I started this Foundation to help get research equipment for the lab and what we needed for the kids. Stop by sometime, Mr. Harris, and see what it's like to fight childhood diseases.”

“Did you say you were here in 1972?”


“That’s right. The year St. Theresa’s opened. Why?” “Just curious.” A familiar ache swam around in his gut.


“Looks like a great crowd,” Jerry interjected quickly. “You should do well tonight.”


“We have Marie, who’s on the hospital board, to thank for that. She knows half the city and helps out a lot. But we do have a lot of great volunteers.”


Nick chimed in. “Do you ever have time away from the hospital, let’s say for dinner?”


“Wow, are you asking me out after just meeting me five minutes ago?” She rolled her eyes.


“Well, I do know some great restaurants tucked away here in Atlanta.”


“Tell you what, Mr. Harris. I’m going to just raise some money tonight and thank a lot of volunteers. I am sure there are plenty of women who would love to spend an evening with you. Now, if you two will excuse me, I need to say hello to the mayor.”


Jerry turned to Nick, flashing his best smug look. “Wow, shot down in midflight, big guy.”


Nick watched Shelly walk away. “She is absolutely stunning.” “And wants nothing to do with you.”


“I must admit, that didn't go as planned, did it?”


“C’mon, Nick. Your tricks won’t work with her. She’s one smart lady. ‘Come and have dinner with me?’ That line is not going to work. You need to find something that makes her tick. Her kids.





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The Kristen Foundation. You know, be a team player. And why did you act like you knew nothing about the Foundation?”


“I am a team player. I just thought she would spend more time talking to us if I asked about the Foundation. There’s something about her that intrigues me.”


“Good Lord,” said Jerry. “Look at her. Hell, your dad would ask her out.”


“Speaking of my dad, he’s cooking chicken cacciatore. Want to get out of here in a little bit and have some homemade, stick-to-your-ribs food?”


“No, I’m going to stay to the end. Let’s go inside.”


The ballroom was spectacular, but not too pretentious, as they were trying to raise money, not show off how well they were doing. The lighting was soft enough to give a soothing feeling, an emotion the hospital tried to instill daily. Tables dressed with white linens and eight settings apiece were adorned with centerpieces made by the children, no two alike. Nick wondered if that had been Shelly’s idea. They seemed to be a big hit with the other guests.


After the last of the guests had been served their tiramisu, and Drs. White and Wall had spoken a few words on behalf of the Foundation and the hospital, Nick said his goodbyes to his tablemates and Jerry. He had eaten enough to be polite but knew his dad would be waiting with his famous cacciatore whenever he got home. He couldn’t disappoint Dad. Before leaving, he searched out a path to intercept Shelly so he could say goodnight. He didn’t want to leave things the way they were.





















20















CHAPTER 4



As Nick pulled his car onto the driveway, he could smell the garlic and sauce permeating the air. Dad was at it again and that was a good thing.


“It smells great in here.” He closed the front door behind him and took another deep sniff. His stomach rumbled to life.


“And where the hell have you been, son?”


Nick smiled at his dad. Salvatore Harris could be blunt, even crass, but Nick knew his true, caring nature. Sal had moved in with his son after his wife of forty-five years passed away from breast cancer. Throughout the home, pictures of her decorated the walls, tables, and shelves, and her glass collection, as well as old photos of Nick’s younger brother, who had also died from cancer.


Nick looked into the dining room, where the table was set and already plated with the food for the evening.


“I made breadsticks, but don’t fill up on them.” “This looks great, Dad.”


“Oh, it’s nothing. Four hours in the kitchen slaving away, only to have you home late. What gives?”


“Tonight was that event for the Kristen Foundation. I thought it was just going to be a reception. There were a lot of important people there. You were right. It was worth the effort.”


“She has quite a story, that Dr. White. I hear she’s stunning.” “Yeah, she is.”




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“She’s the one who’d been admitted with a tumor when your brother was there, and the damn thing just vanished overnight.” Sal munched on a breadstick, dunking it into the cacciatore sauce before each bite.


Nick took a bite of a breadstick in concert with his father. “Man, these are good.”


Sal nodded without looking up.


“I don’t really know that much about her,” said Nick, “but she must know something about me. Or heard something, because when I asked her out, she said no.”


Sal looked up this time. “No?”

“Well, it was more like hell no.”

“Does she know about your mom? Your brother?”


“I didn’t really have a chance to say anything. But Jerry knows her.”


“So how is the Comb-over Kid?” asked Sal. “And why isn’t he here for dinner?” Jerry, like Nick, was in his late thirties, but balding with a comb-over you could see from outer space.


“Well, they served dinner at the event …”


“You ate already?” he yelled from across the table. Nick knew that if he were any closer to his dad, a slap to the back of the head would have been included with the question.


“No, no, I just picked to be polite. I couldn’t wait to get home to your famous cacciatore. Besides, hey, we’re Italian. We can’t eat dinner twice?”


Sal smiled. Nick could always tell how proud his father was of his spunk, his self-confidence, and the sense of humor he got from his mom.


“I bet Jerry would love to have some of these leftovers tomorrow, though.”


“Only if you promise to make sure Bongero doesn’t eat any of it.”


“Nah, he’s out of town, so the office is quiet this week. The only excitement is that our new secretary just started. This should be interesting.”

“Well, try not to scare this one off, will ya?”


Nick rolled his eyes. “Dad, Tracy left to be a yoga instructor. I never saw that coming. I just thought she liked to stretch a lot.”


“Yoga. What the hell is yoga? Sounds foreign.”



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Catching A Miracle



Nick just grinned and returned to his plate. “Speaking of stretching a lot, since you moved in, I’ve gained ten pounds.”


“Don’t worry, whatever you don’t finish, I’ll bring over to Tanya across the street. After Jerry gets his.”

“Now you’re feeding her?”


“Name’s Tanya, and don’t be smart.” He pointed his fork at Nick. “I know what it’s like to travel around the world and come home to a nice meal. Your mother was great about that.”


“Mom was sixty-three, not forty-four … I guess it just bothers me.”


“You’re right, she’s not like the mom you remember. But I’m happy.”


“Well, I gotta give you that.” Nick nodded. “Tanya has put a pep in your step.”

“Sort of like Shelly, huh?”


“There is something about Shelly, Dad. Her eyes are this deep blue that sort of draws you in.”


“Maybe you could use that Harris charm to win her over.” “You’re my biggest cheerleader, you know that? Maybe I should

have you talk to her. Tell her what a great guy I am.”


“I am your biggest fan, but let her figure that out for herself.” Nick shook his head and smirked. “You know what? Scratch


that last idea.”


“That’s probably a good idea, son. Breadstick?”
























23















CHAPTER 5



AdWorks’s new secretary, Bella, had only been on the job about a week, but was getting to know the staff quite well—especially Jerry. They made a connection right away, even though Bella was the opposite of Jerry in every way. She was twenty-eight and fashionable with the whitest of white teeth. She possessed a great laugh, wore her brunette hair short, and was clearly out of Jerry’s league. Jerry, at thirty-eight, was looking his age and a bit set in his ways, but she clearly liked what she saw in him.


Nick and Jerry had met ten years ago here at AdWorks, a medium-sized agency owned by James Bongero, a son of bitch who cared about himself and not much else. He had the knack of putting on an act as if he was your best friend, but was despised by many. He didn’t like anyone either, so that made it all even.


“Hey, big guy, ready for the team meeting at nine?” Nick asked. He purposely wanted to interrupt Jerry and Bella’s googly-eyed conversation.


“Are you kidding? Miss a team meeting? Never. Wait, why are we having this again?”


“Well, rumor has it Bongero went to this seminar and now he wants us to have once a week rah-rah sessions so we can work more and make him more money. Probably to pay for the motivational tapes he invested in.”


“I don’t get it,” Bella interjected. “Why do you keep working for a guy you hate? You could do this stuff anywhere.”



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Catching A Miracle



“Yeah, but I might not have met you?” flirted Jerry.


“So true.” She smiled, a slight blush appearing on her cheeks as she looked away from Jerry. “Maybe you two should start your own company.”


Nick frowned at Jerry, his eyes asking, What does she know, you big mouth? That idea had been brewing for the past three years, and just when they got close to having the guts and contacts to move forward, Nick’s mom got sick. He had to concentrate on taking care of his dad for the time being. So, for now, they just worked their accounts, knowing and hoping that one day things would change.


Nick and Jerry arrived at the conference room, joining the other creative minds at the agency. The walls were decorated with pictures of ads that the twenty-five-year-old company had produced. Its current major client, UPS, chose AdWorks when it moved its headquarters to Atlanta from Greenwich, Connecticut in 1991. As he was director of creative development, UPS was Nick’s baby. The company had become the firm’s bread and butter.


“Hello, people!” Bongero bellowed as he made his way into the conference room and to the front of the table. “What’s new? Any new prospects to keep the lights on?”


“Steady as she goes, Captain,” Jerry responded. Nick grimaced. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Bongero barked, the reaction Nick had been afraid of after the words had tumbled out of Jerry’s mouth. As Jerry sat back, realizing he had his foot in


his mouth, Nick decided to rescue his friend.


“Well, sir,” he said, “we continue to work on a variety of projects, so every day seems to be busy.”


Bongero stared at Nick with those wicked eyes. “Anything new I need to know about, Mr. Harris?”


Nick had been assigned a new client earlier that month who manufactured tractor tires, but he found himself struggling to focus on it. Cancer was back in the forefront of his mind, this time because of Shelly White. The truth was, he had not been the same since his mom passed away. His view of life had changed. His view of women had changed. He’d watched his mother fight her own private war, a war she lost after four years. Nick had watched as his dad stood by her side for what seemed to be endless tests and treatments—the hair loss, her struggle to remain the same person she had always been, the fight to keep her weight up. Her laugh,



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though, she never lost. And that laugh was infectious. She was the embodiment of class. A woman who turned heads well into her sixties.


“Well,” Nick said, “we are starting to work on the new UPS spot today, and we should have some copy by next week for review.”


“Good, at least that’s encouraging,” Bongero answered as everyone silently prayed they were not part of the morning’s inquisition. “Anything else?”


Jerry decided to get out of the dog house and chimed in with some new ideas the staff had been throwing around for the Kristen Foundation over at St. Theresa’s. But it just wasn’t his day.


“So how’s that supposed to make us any money?” Bongero ask. Nick didn’t miss a beat helping Jerry out of another web of humiliation. It was a game with Bongero—them against him. “It’s not all about the money, sir,” he said calmly, “it’s about helping


kids at St. Theresa’s.”


Bongero was not fazed. “The last I checked, we do not get paid by children. Now, if the fine folks at UPS want to hire us to do a campaign for St. Theresa’s, that’s great. I’m all ears. But not on my dime. We’re all here to sell ads, ladies and gentlemen, not give them away.” He turned to deliver his last command directly at Nick. “So, Mr. Harris, do me a favor. You and Lamont focus on keeping the lights on, okay?”


“You know, sir,” Nick continued, “St. Theresa’s is a legendary hospital for children. Helping them would build up good will.”


Bongero sat still, not even looking up from the papers stacked in front of him, although it was evident he was gritting his teeth and could explode at any moment. “I am not interested in good will, Mr. Harris! Especially for a hospital that everyone already does free stuff for. And even when they do pay for anything, they always pay below rack rate because it’s for the children!”


Nick took offense to Bongero’s tone and dug in. Plus, he loved badgering the old goat. “They are doing a tremendous amount of cancer research.”


“Enough, Mr. Harris.” His jaw stiffened, then he turned his attention to the others in the room. “Anyone else?”


From across the table, Judy Owens, who’d joined the firm ten years ago with Nick and Jerry during the company’s expansion, decided it was time to break the tension.



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Catching A Miracle



“I have some news, everybody,” she announced. “I’m pregnant!” Cheers filled the room as the staff rose from their chairs offering congratulatory hugs. All except Bongero, who stayed glued to his seat, his head lowered to his stack of papers.


“Oh great, just great,” he mumbled.


*****


“So how’d it go in there?” Bella asked as Jerry and Nick walked out of the boardroom and toward the front desk.


“It was going well until Jerry here opened his big mouth.” “What did I say?”


“Why did you mention the Foundation in front of him? You know he hates charity.”


“Well, I thought it would be nice to have him know what it was I was working on.”


“Have you learned nothing here in the past ten years?” Nick asked. “The guy is cold-hearted. He wants nothing to do with anything that does not make him money.”


“You mean this guy doesn’t like helping kids—kids with cancer, no less?” Bella asked.


“Yep,” Nick said. “But if those kids could make him money, they would be his best friends.”


“Nice. Well, if you guys ever need help with the Kristen thing, I’m in.”


“Bella, it’s a pleasure to have you on our team.” Jerry smiled. “I like your team, Jerry.” She hesitated for a moment before


flashing a smile back as Jerry walked away.


Nick shook his head, returning to his office. “Back to work,” he said as he shut his door.


*****


“How did your night go?” Shelly asked as she arrived at the nurses’ station for her reports the next morning.


“My night was okay,” Doris said, “but the night nurses tell me the real excitement was here. Where do I start? Let’s see, little Andrea had a rough night and Timmy was a tad restless. Oh, and





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Leslie in 1602 says she is in love with Billy in Room 1608. And Johnny—well, don’t get me started.”


“Have you ever given a straight answer, Doris?” Shelly asked with a smile.


“You know, Doc, I’ve been here a long time, even before your first time around, and if I gave a straight answer to all the doctors’ questions, it wouldn't be much fun, would it?”


Shelly nodded, knowing full well a sense of humor was a must-have defense mechanism.


“So, just curious,” said Doris, “how much did you make from the Foundation event?”


“We raised almost a hundred seventy-five thousand dollars,” she answered as she flipped through the evening’s charts. “And early this morning, someone gave twenty-five thousand dollars anonymously.”


“Someone gave you twenty-five thousand dollars just like that? My lord. If that’s a man, I need to find him and say, thank you, baby!”


"Well, if I do find him, he’s all yours, Doris."


"I saw you talking with Nick Harris last night," Doris quickly changed the topic.


“Yes, and you’re right, he is good looking. And then within five minutes, he asked me out.”


“The man works fast. Mercy.”

“He seemed like a nice guy, though. Jerry, too.”


“Did you know his mother died of breast cancer last year?” Doris asked.


“Nick Harris’ mom?”


“Yes, Jane. She was in our support group. Great lady. Jane and Sal had a storybook love and were the envy of everyone who knew them. They met in high school. know one thing: Nick sure loved his mom.”

“What else do you know about Nick Harris?”


“There is more than meets the eye. His mother told me things she was so proud of, the last time I spoke to her. Doesn’t seem that long ago … She was a special lady. She had eyes just like yours.”


“You know, you’re a special woman, Doris.” “And a helluva good nurse.” She smiled.





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