© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
Ben Thomas opened his eyes to see his crying wife standing beside his bed. He didn't know what was going on but he quickly realized he was in a hospital bed. Suddenly the SUV's flipping came back to him. His stomach hurt and his head was fuzzy but he clearly remembered what happened. He wanted to ask about Skyler but he couldn't find his voice. Tabitha's tears were doing nothing to calm his fear for his son however.
"I love you," said Tabitha as she bent down and kissed his forehead. "You had to have surgery to stop some bleeding. The doctor assures me that you're fine now and just need to rest and recuperate."
"Skyler," he said in a cracked whisper. Her tears told him what he wanted to know and he began to cry himself.
"He suffered a head injury, Ben," she said as she cried fresh tears. "He hasn't woken up."
"Coma?" Ben asked, sighing in relief that his son was at least alive.
"Yes," she said and began to sob.
"Kaleb and Jeff?" he asked, trying hard not to think of Skyler just yet.
"They're both fine," she replied. "They've been released. Jeff hasn't left the hospital to do more than shower and change. He sits in the waiting room and cries."
"He's in love with him," stated Ben. He could see it in Jeff's eyes any time he looked at Skyler. Jeff Timmons was in love with his son. He'd know that look anywhere.
"I know," she said. "Cassie and Chad are out in the waiting room. They both want to see you. Jason is asleep and I didn't have the heart to wake him. He asks about you and his brother every so often and his face falls when I tell him that Skyler isn't awake and that you aren't out of surgery."
"But I am out of surgery now," said Ben.
"And doing just fine," said the doctor as he came into the room. "I'm glad that you're awake. How are you feeling?"
"I could use some water," replied Ben, trying to swallow with a dry throat.
“Oh, Ben, I’m sorry,” gasped Tabitha as she quickly moved around his bed to the other side to get him the Styrofoam cup of ice water that the nurse had left on his tray table. She put the straw to his lips and watched as he sipped quickly.
“Mr. Thomas, let me explain what we did and why,” said the doctor as he pulled the stool over to the bed and sat down. “Your injuries were all internal and very serious. You took a serious blow to the abdomen and that caused some tearing in the outer lining of your stomach. We stitched that up and stopped the bleeding.
“Now you’ll have to take it easy for a while,” continued the doctor. “No greasy foods or strenuous activities. I’ve prescribed Vicadin for the pain. You can have two every six hours. Just press your call button and the nurse’s station will answer. Right now you have an I.V. with a Demerol drip. A nurse will be along soon to change that. Do you have any questions?”
“Yes,” said Ben, handing the cup back to his wife. “Who is the doctor in charge of my son, Skyler’s case?”
“That would be Doctor Phillip Brenner,” replied the doctor. “He’s an excellent doctor and he’s taking good care of your son.”
“I’d like to speak to him if I could,” said Ben. “I want to hear from him how my boy is doing.”
“I’ll tell him to stop by as soon as his rounds are completed,” said the doctor. “My name is Doctor Nathan Pierce. If you need me, Mr. Thomas, you just ask a nurse and I’ll be right with you. I won’t leave the hospital until five today.”
“Thank you, Dr. Pierce,” Ben sighed. Dr. Pierce smiled at him before leaving the room.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Honey?” Tabitha asked, wiping tears from her face. She’d only just gotten her sobs to stop.
“Get some rest,” he said, noticing the dark circles under her eyes. “I love you very much, Tab, and I don’t want you exhausting yourself on our account. I’m fine and I’ll get to the bottom of what is wrong with Skyler. Now get some rest.”
“There’s a room at the end of the hall they’ve been letting us use,” she said. “I’ll go and lie down for a while, but Ben I can’t make the children . . .”
“Send Cassie and Chad in to see me then,” he cut her off. “I won’t have any of you falling over because you’re all staying awake to wait and see what happens.”
“Yes, Dear,” she said before kissing him again. “I’m so happy that you’re all right.”
“So am I,” he replied but didn’t say that he hoped that Skyler would be all right as well.
Tabitha's heart was heavy as she walked back to the waiting room. Skyler and Ben were both now in private rooms. Skyler in the ICU and Ben at the other end of the floor in the "Stable Care" ward. The waiting room that had been reserved for families had been completely taken over by the Thomas family and friends. Celebrities came and went at various hours, each with their own security staff. The hospital was being patient with these security men and women but Tabitha wondered just how long they'd really put up with it.
The hospital provided coffee and donuts in the waiting room from their own cafeteria. The room now had a long table at one end piled high with various foods and delicacies having been brought in by different celebrities. Everyone was trying to do something to make sure that Tabitha and the kids felt better but they didn't understand that nothing would make them feel better as long as Skyler lay in a coma.
Niki had returned to the hospital with Preston in her arms. When certain members of the group in the waiting room had protested it had been Chad that announced that he thought it was the right thing to do. He'd told them that bringing Skyler's son to the hospital to see his father was the best idea he could think of. He had taken the infant into Skyler's ICU room and laid the baby next to Skyler ignoring the hospital's attempts to stop it from happening. Since that day Preston spent at least an hour at his father's side. Chad would hear of nothing else.
Tabitha was startled out of her thoughts when she got back to the waiting room and found Phillip and Beverly Clemmons sitting on either side of Chad and Cassie. She knew who they were, but she hadn't actually met them and to find them in the waiting room was both wonderful and shocking all at the same time. She'd overheard Niki telling Madonna that morning that the Clemmons family had sat in this very waiting room awaiting news on their son, Tobias before he died.
"Tabitha," said Beverly Clemmons, getting up to shake her hand. "We've not met yet, but I wanted to come and show my support for Skyler. He's a truly remarkable young man and we love him very much."
"Thank you, Mrs. Clemmons," Tabitha said.
"Please, call me Beverly or Bev," replied Beverly. "No need to be so formal."
"Has there been any word on Skyler's condition?" Phillip asked, getting up to stand beside his wife.
"This is my husband, Phillip," said Beverly.
"No, I'm afraid that nothing has changed," replied Tabitha as more tears came to her eyes. "I've just left my husband's room, and he's asking for the twins."
"Dad's awake?" Chad asked, getting to his feet as his sister stood beside him.
"Yes, Sweetheart," replied Tabitha, wiping her tears. "He asked that I send the two of you into his room."
"Which room is it?" Cassie asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Tabitha. "He's at the other end of the floor in room 4380."
The three adults watched as the brother and sister twins walked out of the waiting room hand in hand. They appeared devastated and weighed down. It pained Tabitha to see them like that. She was so angry at the press that she wanted to hurt someone. She knew that it wouldn't make anything better but it would have felt so damned good.
"How are they holding up?" Beverly asked once they were safely out of the room.
"Cassie hasn't said much," she replied. "Chad completely broke down in Skyler's room last night. It was heartbreaking to witness."
"I can imagine," said Beverly. "Can we see Skyler?"
"Of course you can," said Tabitha as she took Beverly's hand and led them to Skyler's room.
* * *
"Hi, Daddy," said Cassie as she and Chad walked into room 4380. She was so happy to see him awake and alert. She knew she wouldn't have been able to stand it if he was sleeping like Skyler. She didn't know how much more of this she could take.
"Princess," said Ben, smiling. "Come over here and give me a hug. Don't worry you won't hurt me."
"Oh, Daddy," she said, rushing to his bedside and putting her arms around him. Her battle with tears that she'd held a tentative hold on was lost once her father's arms were around her. She sobbed as she held him.
"Shh," soothed Ben as he stroked her hair. "It's all right, Sweetie. Everything will be all right."
"I was so scared for you," she sobbed. "And Skyler . . ."
"I know, Cassie," he said soothingly. "Sky will wake up, Cassie. He's strong and he has so many reasons to come back to us. Don't worry, Cassie."
It was a promise that he charged God with keeping for him. Skyler had to wake up. He'd only just got him back and he couldn't lose him like this. He had to wake up and be all right. Ben refused to accept that things could end this way. He said his silent demanding prayer to God as Chad came to stand on the other side of him. He drew the crying teenager to him with one arm and the three sat on the hospital bed crying for their sleeping loved one.
And the day went on. The press was still outside, but no one talked to them. Celebrities and friends made their way in and out of the hospital with large amounts of security to shield them from the press. Nurses tended to Ben as well as Skyler but nothing changed. As night came upon them they each greeted it with heavy hearts and saddened thoughts. It had been decided that Tabitha would call Kurt Loder and Carson Daly. Those two were always great with the boys when it came to interviews. She would give only those two status reports on Skyler. She would begin the following morning. Ben just hoped Skyler wouldn't be upset when he found out about it.
It began the following morning. The story about the death of the photographer from "The Rag" that had been hanging out of the passenger window of the truck that had started all of this was broken. Every local news channel ran stories about Daniel Parish's death and Skyler's unknown condition at Florida Hospital. It didn't matter which channel they turned to. This was all they saw and heard. So Ben changed channels to MTV and was in tears only minutes later. MTV was running all of Skyler's videos one after another. They broke at the top of each hour to alert fans to Skyler's unchanged status.
VH1 and MuchMusic were running similar Skyler marathons. They could only report what MTV had reported about Skyler's condition, yet that day all three channels were devoted to nothing but Skyler Thomas. It was on at the Nurse's Station, in the waiting room and several patient rooms in the hospital. When Tabitha went downstairs with Beverly Clemmons for coffee they saw that MTV was the favored channel in the coffee shop as well.
Something else started to happen that day as well. The world was alerted to Skyler's condition and they responded. The gates to Skyler's estate became the delivery point of flowers, stuffed animals and candles brought by fans. Local news announced that flights were sold out into Orlando on all airlines. Fans of Skyler Thomas were flocking to Orlando. Hotels were booked solid and people lined the streets in front of the hospital and the estate.
The days went on that way. More and more coverage of the growing crowd and gifts in front of the hospital and estate showed up on television. Ben was released Tuesday morning, but he refused to leave the hospital. He went straight to his son's room and sat next to his bed for nearly an hour without saying a word. He just looked at his son's healing face and cried. He had to wake up. That was all there was to it.
"Come on, Sky," he said finally, taking his son's hand in his own. "We all need you, Skyler. We don't know how to do this without you, buddy."
The bruises that had almost covered Skyler's face had slowly turned yellow and then brown. Now they were fading away entirely. The swelling in his head was subsiding and his head was getting back to it's natural contour as well. Hair was growing on his head again, taking away that waxed bald look that Ben had been told about. His son's body was healing. He just wasn't waking up.
That evening "Skyler Thomas: The Man" aired on MTV. Ben didn't know when Chad and Tabitha had been interviewed by there they both were on the television. The family and gathered friends watched the show through tears in the waiting room of Florida Hospital. They saw Skyler's shining smile over and over again as pictures and past interviews were run during the two hour show.
"I think family is the most important thing in the world," he'd said during one of those interviews.
The video for 'It's Not Your Business' was played twice along with coverage of the recording sessions from all of Skyler's albums. Barry Graham was interviewed and Ben was shocked to find that what the man had to say didn't anger him. Both Clay and Laura were interviewed along with Zack and Skyler's college friend turned actor, Mark. Several celebrity interviews were shown as well but the main theme of the show was Skyler. They showed movie clips, video clips and you could always hear his voice singing one song or another in the background.
Two days later Chad sat down in the board room of the hospital with Kurt Loder and an MTV camera crew for his live interview. Ben and Phillip Clemmons stood across the room and watched the whole time. Kurt's questions didn't cross the line even once. He was completely professional and seemed genuinely worried about Skyler.
"There's been no change in your brother's condition?" Kurt asked near the end of the interview.
"Not so far, but I'm confident that Skyler will wake up and recover," Chad said, but anyone listening could tell that his heart wasn't behind his statement.
"So many fans have flocked to Orlando to be near him," said Kurt. "Have you, or any other family members had an opportunity to talk to the fans?"
"Not so far," replied Chad. "We've been here at the hospital non stop, but I'd like to take this time to thank all of the fans for both being here and sending gifts and cards. Sky's room is completely filled with flowers and balloons. When he wakes up that will be what he sees first."
The next chapter will be posted soon.