CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: PUZZLED
Cuddy and Chase are alternately pacing around House’s small room and perching anxiously in the uncomfortable chairs. After Wilson had hurriedly departed, Cuddy had paged the team and told them what had transpired, shared her certainty that Wilson had found an answer. Chase and Foreman had arrived within twenty minutes. Now Foreman’s in the lab, haranguing the techs for lab results, and Cuddy and Chase wait to hear from Wilson.
When Foreman enters, they know right away that he’s got bad news. He motions for them to join him, away from House’s bedside. Foreman hands the paper to Chase; Cuddy leans in to read it. Then, shell-shocked, the three stare at one another.
“Is this even possible?” Cuddy asks in a hushed voice.
“Not only possible, but exactly what I was afraid of,” Chase says. “House’s infection’s been responding atypically since the beginning, and we don’t know why. Not even his recent history of corticosteroid use explains all of it. Now, everything’s dependent on Wilson, on whatever he’s figured out.”
Chase walks over to House’s bedside and shuts off the antibiotic pump. “No sense risking more damage to his kidneys when the meds aren’t doing anything to fight the VRSA,” he says.
“But… that leaves him without any coverage for the infection at all!” Cuddy exclaims.
Foreman smiles grimly. “We could dump three doses into his veins right now, and it still wouldn’t give him coverage. Cultures showed resistance to both meds within hours.”
“His fever’s spiking again,” Chase mentions to no one in particular as he activates the cooling blanket.
“Did Wilson say where he was going, when he’d be back?” Foreman asks Cuddy.
“No, but he seemed pretty certain that he’d figured out something important, and… I got the feeling that whatever it was would provide a solution, a definitive treatment plan.” Cuddy doesn’t mention that she’s basing so much of her hope, her optimism, on the simple fact that Wilson hadn’t said goodbye to House; she isn’t sure that Chase and Foreman would appreciate the significance of that. But she does, and her faith in Wilson hasn’t wavered, even in light of this grim development.
And… Wilson had been House during that revelatory experience; Cuddy’s convinced of that. Her belief in House’s diagnostic abilities is virtually unshakeable; she’s more than willing, now, to transfer that confidence to Wilson.
But how can I explain that to them? I don’t even understand why I know everything’s going to be okay; how can I expect them to get it? She decides it’s best not to even try; Wilson will return soon enough, and then Chase and Foreman will see for themselves.
“Where’s Dr. Cameron?” Cuddy’s just realized that the third member of House’s team is conspicuously absent.
Foreman and Chase exchange a quick, uncomfortable glance, then Chase says “I spoke with her on the way over. She said if you need her, she’ll come in. As a doctor. She said to tell you she… doesn’t need to be here just to be part of… House’s deathwatch.”
A brief flash of anger crosses Cuddy’s face, and then it’s gone. “That’s all right,” she says pleasantly. “Her negative attitude won’t help House right now—and we don’t need it either. Because he’s going to be fine. Just fine.”
Foreman, concern written on his face, nods to Chase to join him just outside the cubicle. Once they’re out of Cuddy’s hearing, he asks, “How long has he got if this miracle of Wilson’s doesn’t pan out?”
“Depends. If we extubate him, stop the dialysis, confine treatment to palliative care, it’ll be less than a day—maybe significantly less. But something tells me Wilson and Cuddy won’t allow that. And if they insist on continuing to actively treat… it’s hard to say, but it could be a week.” Chase lowers his head sadly. “A horrendous week.”
“And what are the odds that Wilson really has found something that’ll make a difference?”
Chase hesitates, then says reluctantly, “Not good. Between House’s depressed immune system and whatever mutation this is, I’m not certain there’s anything out there that’ll give him a fighting chance. Even Cuddy and Wilson have gotta be aware that the cards are stacked against him. He got so sick, so quickly, and he hasn’t responded fully to anything we’ve tried. We may have lost the battle before we even started fighting. And I have a feeling that somehow, House already knew that, when he spoke to me about what he wanted if he was to become ill. What’s concerning me now is, Wilson doesn’t seem anywhere near ready to face it. I thought maybe Cuddy was; now I’m wondering about her as well.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. And the one who’ll suffer because of their denial will be House.” Foreman looks across at his unconscious boss, and shakes his head.
“No he won’t,” Chase says firmly. “If this goes bad, if Wilson doesn’t come through, I’ll increase House’s sedation. Either way, whether they let us pull the plug or not, I’ll make certain he stays under.”
“He’s already maxed out,” Foreman says. Then he sees the look on Chase’s face, and he nods. “Okay. I’m with you; however much it takes, we give him. But… you do realize that Wilson—and maybe even Cuddy—are gonna want to talk to him, say their goodbyes. They’ll want to pull him out of the coma at least once.”
Foreman’s watching Cuddy as he speaks. She’s with House, doing routine care, and she’s obviously speaking to him. Foreman can tell from her posture, from the expression on her face and the serenity in her eyes, that she’s pinned everything on this wild goose chase of Wilson’s. He knows that she’ll crash hard if Wilson can’t save House—and he doesn’t even want to think about the effect it’ll have on Wilson.
Chase looks intently at Foreman. “If you were House, would you want to be awake for any of this?”
“Hell, no,” Foreman says quietly.
“Our primary responsibility is to our patient,” Chase continues. “So I say we take that responsibility… very, very seriously.” Chase looks meaningfully at Foreman, who mirrors his expression.
A nonverbal agreement passes between them, then they silently shake hands and return to the patient they’ve vowed to protect.