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There Is No Way This Turns Out Well: The Conclusion

You wanted an ending, and an ending you shall have. Thank you to those who have read both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. I hope you find this conclusion to your liking.

the brain

the brain

The Brain

Eight years of college, seven years of residency, and countless surgeries on the brains of my patients leave me with one statement to share with you all: brain surgery is the most-complicated surgery in medicine, and easily the most unpredictable. I had told Heather Stillwell she had a fifteen percent chance of surviving the operation, but even the fifteen percent survival rate came with risks. A person could survive the operation but come out of it with impaired movement or speech, or any number of other negative side-effects.

In truth, she had, maybe, a five-percent chance of waking up in recovery fully-functioning. I told her that a half-hour before I went to work. One last chance for her to back out. One last chance for me to end this insanity.

“Five-percent is better than zero, Doctor Andres. Besides, I trust you.”

I smiled. It was weak. Surely she could see my doubt, this intuitive woman who had somehow convinced me to stop fleeing my past.

“Whatever happens, Doctor Andres, it will be all right.”

“You’ve probably earned the right to call me Joel.”

“I’m ready, Joel. Thank you! Let’s do this. I’ll see you on the other side, and we’ll have a victory dinner, my treat.”

the hospital

the hospital

The Operation

Nine a.m., on the dot, the first incision. The clock on the operating room wall seemed to mock me, taunt me, keeping track of crucial moments, constantly reminding me that my hubris, my ego, my self-assurance, it was all folly, for man can never play God with good consequences.

Fold back skin and muscles. Check for bleeding. Suction. Each step crucial, each step performed with precision, a walk in the park, done many times, find a rhythm, keep moving with confidence.

Nine-thirty, open the skull, done many times, find a rhythm, keep moving with confidence, check for bleeding, check breathing, check heartbeat, all vitals reading strong. The nurse wipes my brow. Preliminaries completed, now we get down to it.

Nine-forty, the tumor is exposed. The pace slows. Twenty years of preparation, twenty years of training, twenty years of experience come down to the next hour, live or die, millimeters separating vitality from lifeless, playing God in a sterile environment. The nurse wipes my brow once more. Vitals remain strong, and then they don’t. The warning buzzer sounds the alarm, blood-pressure dropping, heartbeat too rapid, her body rejecting the invasion. Those are the moments when training kicks into high gear, an encyclopedia of medical knowledge flashes before my eyes, possible causes, related actions to take for each cause, choose one, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and just as quickly as it happened, it stops. Vitals return to normal, the buzzer ends, a collective sigh can be heard from the operating team, one possible disaster averted.

Ten-fifteen, the clock on the wall, an unemotional chronicler of time, coldly, impersonally keeping track of minutes, unaware that each minute is precious life for the woman on the table.

The nurse wipes my brow. We continue!

Nerves and blood vessels are avoided, a dance of precision with instruments, for sections of the brain no larger than a pea can be crucial for movement, thought, speech, all manner of normal life.

Fluid forms, the precursor to swelling. Fluid is drained. Vitals remain stable at ten-fifty-five.

The tumor is removed. The nurse wipes my brow. A glance at the nurse monitoring the vitals. She nods. All is well. Heather is a fighter, no doubt about it, unable, unwilling to relax her grasp on life, but we are not done. I’m not ready to close her up until I explore a bit, make sure all is well inside, make sure the tumor has not caused secondary problems I was unaware of, for brain surgery is all theory and textbooks until the knife makes that first incision and theory becomes reality.

At eleven-thirty I release a breath held for far too long. My assistant asks if I want her to close Heather up.

“No, I’ll take this from start to finish,” and I do, closing the skull, returning scalp and muscle to their rightful place, one last look at the vitals, all is well, all is as it should be, start to finish, about as smooth an operation as I could have asked for, and from the viewing gallery overhead I hear applause, my peers letting me know their appreciation for the job just completed.

“Let me know the minute she wakes up in recovery. I’ll be in the lounge,” and I leave Heather in the capable hands of the team, walk on wooden legs to the doctors’ lounge, collapse into a chair and weep.




“Did we beat the odds, Joel?”

Heather smiled beneath the bandages, reached out a hand to me, which I took.

“So far, yes, but we’re not out of the woods. The next twenty-four hours will tell the tale. Now, answer some questions for me. What is your name?”

“Heather Stillwell.”

“Do you know why you are here, Heather?”

“To remove a tumor from my brain.”

“What is your profession, Heather?”

“I’m a school teacher, or at least I was, and I plan on being one again as soon as you stop with these questions and admit that you did it, you successfully saved my life. Thank you, Joel!”

My throat seemed to close. Tears formed.

“Squeeze my hand, Heather. Good. Now lift your left leg. Now your right. Good!” I checked her vitals. All good.

“What do you want for your victory dinner, Joel? Any restaurant of your choosing. You’ve earned it.”

“How about dinner at your house. You cook.”

“I make a mean mac n cheese. If that’s good enough for you then dinner is on me in two weeks, the 14th, seven p.m., you bring the wine.”

Two Weeks

She did make a fine mac n cheese. Turns out Merlot compliments mac n cheese just fine.

“What’s next for you, Joel? Back to the hospital, more lives to save, the legend of Joel Andres grows into the future?”

A dog barked outside of her Greenlake home, north Seattle. Spring had finally arrived, the rains had calmed, shirtsleeve weather was upon us, a time of rebirth, of dusting off dreams and making them a reality.

“I’m retiring, Heather. You were my Grande Opus. I might as well stop while I’m sitting on top of my profession, on a winning-streak.”

She smiled at me, far-removed from the woman who walked into my life a month earlier, now filled with hope, now with a future as yet unwritten.

“What will you do once you retire?”

“I think I’ll travel. I’ve never taken time to see anything. Asia, Australia, Africa, hell, Europe, they are all waiting for me, and there’s no better time than now to enjoy life while it’s still being patient for me to do so.”

She smiled again. The dog stopped barking outside. Somewhere a horn honked. Somewhere a garbage can lid clanked. She began clearing the table, taking dishes to the sink. Poured a second glass of wine for us both, handed one to me, sat down on the couch across from me, smiled again.

“I like to travel, Joel, and the future is calling both of us.”

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 03, 2021:

Thanks a bunch, Rodric. I was torn between a happy ending and death. I'm glad I went happy. It seems to be the ending most people were hoping for, so we all win with this one.

I hope this finds you well and healthy.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on August 02, 2021:

I do not recall if I left a comment or not, and I will not read the others before I leave this one: I love happy endings! It is a part of my culture to seek after them and feel hollow when the ending is not happy. Thanks for doing that. We all know life ends in death. Sometimes we just need the distraction to help us live in the moment if just for a little bit. Mindfulness needs to be more of a norm in my life and everyone else's, I observe.

I wanted them to fall in love and get married. I wanted them to be friends at least. I kept expecting a twist in the end but did not get one. Thank you for that. It did not end well for him. It ended greater for him! I already did a spoiler by saying it was a happy ending, so I can say that he gets to explore the world on his own terms for a chance and live his life in the moment instead of in the past. She changed him. I love this.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 02, 2021:

Thank you Vidya! I will write more as time and circumstances allow. I appreciate your kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 02, 2021:

I'm very glad you enjoyed the ending, Nithya. Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 02, 2021:

Thank you Flourish! I have an intense hatred of pop-up ads. They are the scourge of online learning in my humble opinion.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 02, 2021:

Thank you Miebakagh! I'm happy you enjoyed it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 02, 2021:

I really appreciate that, MG! I really do!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 02, 2021:

At one point, Meg, I considered making her a ghost. I'm glad I didn't. I'm happy with the end results, and glad you are as well. Thank you!

VIDYA D SAGAR on August 02, 2021:

A beautiful ending to a great story Bill. It kept me engaged throughout. I love happy endings and this surely made me happy. The description of the surgery is amazing. A great write no doubt. We would love to read more such stories Bill. Thanks for this one. Good day.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 30, 2021:

I love the happy ending and I can now imagine Heather and Joel traveling together and leading a happy life.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 30, 2021:

Great drama. As I read your tale of life saving surgery at the end of this near-defeated surgeon’s career, those darn ads were driving me crazy. They looked like they were a part of the story since I was getting an an that said that an 80 year old miraculously fixed bad posture. Over and over. Great finale though.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on July 29, 2021:

Very commendable.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on July 29, 2021:

Bill, I must compliment you on your ability to get under the skin of the reader even with everyday tales. This is wonderful and with whatever experience I have, I can say you are top class. Take care and look after yourself.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on July 29, 2021:

Saw this part of the story and went back and read parts 1 and 2 first. Really enjoyed that. I was beginning to suspect she was a ghost for a while, with the same problem in the same place but much better that she was not, as now he has a companion for his travels. Who knows where those will take them?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2021:

Thank you Manatita! Oh, my friend, if I only had the time to write all the stories I would like to write, but alas, Father Time has different plans for my time remaining. At some point, enough will have to be enough, my friend, for all of us.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2021:

Thank you Lora! I hope you realize how much I appreciate your comments, because I do.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2021:

I hope it does, Bill! I think they deserve each other. Thanks my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2021:

I wish that too, Becky, and so I made sure at least this story had a happy ending. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2021:

Thank you for noticing those things, Brenda. Yes, he closed it up himself and yes, he waited for her to wake up. The connection was strong between them, and she was very important to him.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 29, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! I just couldn't kill her off. Too many people wanted a happy ending, so happy ending they shall have.

manatita44 from london on July 29, 2021:

Not only a great read but you are right up my street. You must have read a bit for that: the wiping of brows, the clock, the orientation questions... the recovery. The pace and flow of the writing in some places, the descriptive pieces for such a theme is superb!

Romance in the air? Doctor-patient relationship? Then you definitely have to retire bro. Chuckle. Mind you, it has been done a few times. Give us a part 3. Since I don't or can't see you going to as many countries as I have, why don't you do them in Part 3 with a lovely wife? Just make sure Bev don't proof-read this one. Sweet Chuckle. An awesome read!

Lora Hollings on July 28, 2021:

I loved your story, Bill! I was hoping that it would be a happy ending and I sure got my wish. One could almost say that fate played a role in these two meeting each other. She brought him redemption and he extended her life. Life works in mysterious ways. A terrific ending to a very good story.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on July 28, 2021:

Excellent writing, Bill. This happy ending seems like it might continue.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on July 28, 2021:

I'm happy they made it through this one. Maybe there will be more joy for them. I wish there was joy for all medical problems.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 28, 2021:


I'm so glad this ended well with him redeeming himself with a successful surgery and Heather surviving the brain tumor removal.

He took extra good care of her by insisting that he finish cloding her up hy himself...most doctors hand that off.

He cares for her as he waits for her to wake up...the ending shows the connection is mutual.

A feeling of love might be in the air...as they travel together.

Great write. A wonderful way to end such a tense story.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 28, 2021:

I love a happy ending! This is one title that no longer fits, and I am glad of it. I remember the seriousness in the neurosurgery rooms when I was an operating nurse. No joke-telling like there was in the orthopedic surgeries taking place. You certainly know how to tell a good story! Traveling around the world, hand-in-hand, is a nice dream!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

Thank you Dora! I wanted good things to happen to good people this time around.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

I had the power of life and death in my hands, Pamela, and I decided Heather deserved some happiness. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

Thank you Miebakagh! I'm so glad you liked it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

Sha, I decided against death this time. Hooray! The prerogative of a fiction writer, life or death, and this time life.

I hope you're doing fine, my friend. Be well and stay safe during these weird times.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

I just couldn't let her die, Linda! I didn't have the heart for it. :) Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

I'm glad you liked it, Rosina! Happy Wednesday to you as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 28, 2021:

Zulma, good to hear from you. Thank you! I'm glad you approve, and I hope this finds you well, my friend.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 28, 2021:

Seems to me that Billybuc could have done the surgery. Good read, great ending!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 28, 2021:

A happy ending is always a delight. I am glad Heather recovered well from the surgery, and it seems the well-known neurosurgeon and Heather will travel together. What more could we ask?

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on July 28, 2021:

Bill, you're a master story teller. This one end well for the doctor and the patient.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 28, 2021:

I knew they were going to hook up! How can you not fall in love with the man who saved you from the brink of death?

Great story, Bill. Quite the other side of your fictional complexion. I would imagine you did quite a bit of research on how to perform brain surgery. Your words were realistic enough to cause me to wince as I pictured what Joel was doing in the operating room.

Touché, Bill! And bon voyage Joel and Heather!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on July 28, 2021:

Thank you for delivering a happy ending on this one. The best is yet to be.

Rosina S Khan on July 28, 2021:

Fabulous conclusion with a good ending to the story. Loved all of it. It sure was a pleasant and engaging read. And I am glad the operation was successful. Thanks for sharing, Bill. Happy Wednesday.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 28, 2021:

Well done, Mr. Bill, well done.

Joel got his redemption and Heather got another chance at life. And all without a hint of contrivance or a sense that it was forced. As I mentioned before, I wasn't too fussed if the ending was happy or sad so long as it was real. I believe this was real.

Have a great day, Bill.

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