November 8th, 1996 …
Connor Xavier Wellington’s young life wasn’t supposed to end this way. There was supposed to be a breakthrough—a dramatic last minute cure produced by his father’s three year heroic effort at Rexsen Labs. But David Wellington knew he’d failed. There would be no cure, no last minute miracle, only suffering and guilt.
The decision to move Connor into Saint Michael’s hospice in Irvine was his first admission of failure to his son. David sat anchored next to his wife in the dim glow of the single fluorescent light above the bed. Although they’d been at their eight-year-old son’s bedside every minute for the past week, he could barely recognize him. Pale and melting into the white sheets, Connor’s blue eyes peeked from underneath his eyelids as the morphine drip did its work and masked the pain of the multiple infections and failing organs, courtesy of the genetic imperfection that prevented his stem cells from developing into healthy blood. His thick brown hair was gone and replaced with a Dodger’s bandanna. He hugged his baseball glove while his mother, Linda, stroked the bony outline of his legs. David forced a smile and did his best to hide what they all knew was about to happen. Connor’s eyes lifted for a moment.
“Daddy, are you still working on my medicine?”
The question cut through David’s heart. He glanced at the green numbers on the monitor counting down his son’s last heartbeats and reached deep for another smile. He rested his hand on his son’s head.
“Yes, Sport. We are still working on it.”
David looked at Linda and detected no evidence of blame. He’d quit his job at the investment bank in New York, moved the family to Newport Beach and dumped his seven figure bonus into a fledgling biotech firm in the hopes of finding a cure. But the Director of Research had delivered the bad news a week earlier. Without detailed mapping of the human genome it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Despite three years of research, testing and prayer, David could do nothing to stop his young son’s killer. He’d failed, and God didn’t care.
Connor sucked in a deep breath and sighed. “That’s good Daddy.”
Connor closed his eyes and David heard the rhythm of the monitor slow. He reached for his son’s hand. Connor’s skin was still soft, but the warmth was fading. David heard Linda sob and she rose next to David, leaned in and kissed her son’s forehead. David squinted to force the tears back into his eyes. “No, no, no !” he begged through his clenched teeth. The monitor stopped and then warbled a continuous tone that David would never forget. Connor Xavier Wellington, the boy who was going to play third base for the Dodgers, was gone. The nurse quietly slipped in and shut down the monitor. Linda hugged her son and wailed. David wiped his eyes, stood and stared at Connor’s limp body, and then grabbed the glove at his son’s side and dropped it into the trash can on his way out the door.