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Chapter Three

RUTH Troulson threw her arms around her husband as soon as she
heard the laundry cart clear the swinging doors. "No blood for my
boy!" she sobbed quietly, lifting her teary eyes to meet Ralph's.
"That's right, dear!" he reassured her, scarcely holding back his
own tears. "But we've got no time now to discuss it. Here's your coat.
When you bring the car up to the main entrance, just slide over to the
passenger's side, but be sure to leave the engine running and the
driver's door unlocked. I'll meet you there in five minutes. I love
you," he added as he patted his wife's bottom, gently propelling her in
the direction of the emergency stairway at the far end of the pediatric

Ruth was most of the way down the stairs, and Ralph was
standing outside the closed door of what had been Tommy's room,
when Jill French finally managed to hang up on Sister Samuels.
"Oh! Mr. Troulson, I'm sorry I was on the phone so long. Is
everything all right?" she asked as she returned from the nurse's

"Yes! Everything is just fine," he assured her, stepping in front of
the closed door. "My wife wanted to spend a few minutes alone with
Tommy, to say Goodnight." He gestured toward the door behind him.
"That's nice, real nice!" the young woman in white replied with a
smile. She spun cheerily on her heels and headed back to the nurse's

"Jehovah, God, please forgive me for lying,," Ralph prayed silently,
watching her go, "-- if that actually was a lie. But Ruth does want to
have time alone with Tommy when we get away from here, so I guess
I wasn't really lying after all."

Ralph stood there a minute longer to give his wife time to cross
the parking lot and reach their car. Then he made his way down the
corridor toward the swinging doors. He felt like running, but forced
himself to travel at a normal pace, perhaps even slower. At the
nurse's station he paused and said "Goodnight!" to Jill and to Lucie
Gibbs--who had just returned with a styrofoam cup full of clam

"I left the door closed, but my wife will be along shortly," he told
the two nurses, justifying this semi-truth by telling himself that she
would indeed be along to meet him in front of the hospital with the
car running.

Emerging from the pediatric corridor through the swinging doors,
he swept a cold gaze over the reporters, the welfare worker and the
security guard, but smiled broadly when his eyes met those of his

"Thanks for coming, folks," he said, pressing their hands one at a
time. "I can't tell you how much your support means to Ruth and me
--and to Tommy, too. The doctors still intend to give Tommy that
forced transfusion, but we'll see whether Jehovah God permits it. In
the meantime, Ruth and I are going to get some rest. She'll be along in
a few moments," he concluded, repeating the same half-truth he had
told the nurses. But this time, before he could hear from his
conscience and respond to justify himself, the two reporters began
plying him with questions:

"What do you think God might do to prevent your son's
transfusion, Mr. Troulson?" asked Sophie Laphorne of WCAZ, thrusting
her microphone in his face.

He refused even to look at her but instead turned silently toward
the elevator, with her hand following him as if the microphone were
hooked to his chin. "This is your chance to tell the world about your
faith. Does God want your child to die?" she persisted.

"Has someone in your church told you to expect miraculous
intervention?" George Coffin of The Enterprise interjected, his pen
already scribbling madly on the note pad in his hand. But by then the
elevator door was closing. And officer Fallone's outstretched arm
prevented the reporters from boarding with Troulson.

"The man has a right to his privacy," the security guard
explained. "I'm no believer in faith healing, but my job is to protect
everyone's rights in this case."

"Then, protect freedom of the press by granting us the liberty to
leave, s-s-sir!" Ms. Laphorne hissed as she and her less flamboyant
counterpart boarded the second elevator in pursuit of their story.

Those remaining in the hallway resumed the hum of their
interrupted conversations: the two elders together, the two
grandmothers, and the security guard delivering a monologue to the
bored social worker--the latter impatiently waiting to visit Tommy
again after his parents had their turn. The J.W. elders and
grandmothers, all party to the conspiracy to evacuate Tommy, did the
best they could to maintain a semblance of smalltalk while exchanging
knowing glances with one another and speaking silent prayers to God.

Finally Irena Czinko decided that she had had enough of waiting.
After all, the hospital rule limiting visitors to two at a time should not
have applied to a representative of the Department of Social Services
when the D.S.S. has temporary custody of a child. Besides, Mr.
Troulson had left his wife alone in the room with the boy, had he not?
So, there was space for another visitor anyway, and she was about to
claim her rights--all, of course, for the sake of the poor sick boy and
his rights.

With a determined toss of her long red hair and an explosive
flash of her flint-green eyes, Irena Czinko burst through the swinging
doors and confronted the two startled nurses at their station.
"I'm going in to see the boy!" she snapped, as the nurses rose to
their feet in automatic pursuit.

Arriving at the closed door, Ms. Czinko turned and faced them,
demanding to know why the door was shut.

"Mrs. Troulson just wanted some privacy with her son," the one in
charge replied, "to say Goodnight." Jill smiled and nodded her
confirmation of the falsehood she had been tricked into passing on.
Irena Czinko rolled her eyes, folded her arms, and fixed her gaze
disgustedly at her wristwatch.

The name Irena means peace, but she felt little peace in her life
--especially not at this moment while she begrudgingly allowed Ruth
Troulson a moment of privacy (so she thought) with her child. As a
social worker she was pledged to ensure the best interests of Tommy
Troulson. And the court-ordered transfusion was obviously in his best
interests: he would surely die without it. But along with the
transfusion would come what might seem, to the boy, a fate worse
than death. As a ward of the state, he would be separated from his
parents for a time. And during that time he would have to carry
burdens far too heavy for his eleven-year-old frame. Would he try to
pinch the tube connecting the blood-bag to his arm? Would he try to
pull out the needle? Irena knew from her conversations with him
that Tommy was considering such things, and that he was deeply
troubled at the prospect of someone else's blood flowing through his
veins. She also knew, more than an eleven-year-old could anticipate,
that the transfusion would leave him saddled with a load of guilt. She
knew he would be in fear of divine punishment for having broken
"God's law" against transfusions and that he would actually loathe his
own body, saturated with the abhorrent foreign blood.

Was it right to force the transfusion against the whole family's
wishes? Of course, it had to be right, Irena thought--but still it
robbed her of her peace. She felt the same gnawing uneasiness that
had troubled her a year before when her own mother lay lifeless in a
bed at this same hospital, a respirator forcing air into her lungs, and
an electronic device