At the moment those words left his mouth, Bo Duke felt as if the world had tilted violently. He lost his balance and fell to his knees. He seemed to be enveloped in a thick fog…he could no longer see the countryside around him. His vision clouded further and he heard voices…voices from his past. The voices were not speaking directly to him…but they were close to him…sometimes mentioning his name. He heard his Uncle Jesse, a younger sounding Daisy and Luke, and…could it be? He heard the unmistakable sound of Meghan’s soft, musical voice! They were the voices of his past, all right, but he didn’t remember ever hearing these conversations before. What were those strange noises in the background? Why couldn’t he move or speak?
‘What’s going on? Have I finally lost my mind?’
Reality: September, 1985…Tri-County Hospital, Long-Term/Rehabilitative Care Unit
Luke Duke stared, stonily, out the window of the sixth floor waiting room. His whole life had changed in the past six months. Who would have thought that one event would have such an impact on a whole family. It was almost as if all the joy had been instantaneously sucked out of their lives. His uncle rarely smiled anymore and Daisy, who was usually always smiling and quick with a laugh, was now more prone to tears than laughter. Luke, himself, had become more reserved. He kept his emotions and thoughts completely to himself, rarely speaking to anyone except family and close friends. The eldest Duke cousin had never realized how closely his family was knit until one of them was gone. “But, he’s not gone…not yet anyways,” Luke thought about the conversation he had just overheard between his uncle and the doctors.
“They’re wrong! They just have to be wrong!” He said to himself as he pounded the window frame with his fists. He jumped as he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. He turned to see his cousin Daisy standing behind him with tears shining in her eyes.
“Luke, honey, I’m afraid they might be right this time. You know how bad Bo was hurt…I mean…six months in a coma, all those problems and now this pneumonia…Luke, even if he does somehow make it…” Daisy broke down and began to sob. Luke hugged her to his chest and began to rub her back to soothe her. He knew all too well what his cousin was talking about. Even if Bo did live through this he could still spend the rest of his life in a coma or brain-damaged to the point where he couldn’t take care of himself. Either way, his best friend was gone.
“Where’s Uncle Jesse?” Luke asked, trying to control the surge of emotions running through him.
Daisy wiped her eyes and sniffed as she struggled to find her voice, “He’s gone down to the chapel. I thought I’d give him a little time alone and then I’d join him. He’s havin’ a real hard time right now…he doesn’t want to see Bo suffer, but he can’t let him go.”
“I know the feelin’.” Luke said, softly.
“Do you wanna come down to the chapel with me?” Daisy asked as she turned to walk toward the elevators.
“Nah. I think I’ll go sit with Bo for a little while…maybe talk to him a bit.”
“OK…Luke, I love you. Tell Bo I love him, too and me and Jesse’ll be up in a little while.” Daisy returned to her cousin and placed a quick kiss on his cheek.
Luke returned the kiss. “Love you, too, Cuz and I’ll be sure to tell him, even though he knows it already,” he said with a wink and turned her back toward the elevators.
Luke entered the Long-Term Care Unit and wandered back into the room his cousin had been in for a little over five months. The room was more “homey” looking than a regular hospital room and was plastered in pictures and posters from concerts and races…just anything to talk about and to possibly remind Bo of his life before the accident…that is if he ever woke up to see them. Luke went over to the large window and stared out of it. He could still see the events that led up to Bo’s accident. They had played out in his mind like a movie…every day since. He kept trying to figure out if he could have done anything different…
It was early April. He and Bo had been driving back from town. Jesse had sent them to get some new pieces for Maudine’s harness and they had to hurry back to start work in the fields. Bo was his usual self, talkative and having fun. The two cousins were just enjoying the day. They briefly had a chase with Roscoe, but ended it by leaving the Sheriff yellin’ at them after he went nose-first into a cow pond. On their way back to the farm, Bo decided to take one of his famous short-cuts. Soon the Duke boys found themselves in their usual position: in the wrong place at the wrong time. All was well until they passed the old Jenson place. Apparently, some of Boss Hogg’s “business associates” were using the abandoned farm as their hide-out. They obviously didn’t want any company and objected strongly to the sight of the orange charger and its two occupants speeding through “their territory”. Before they really realized what was going on, Bo and Luke found themselves smack in the middle of another chase. The Duke boys had no idea who the angry men were and they sure didn’t know why they were chasing them. Luke looked behind while Bo floored the accelerator.
“Come on, Bo! Quit foolin’ around and lose ‘em, already.”
“I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’. You’re not helpin’ any by hollerin’ in my ear!”
“Shut up and drive! I think they’ve got guns.”
“Who are those fellas anyway? We didn’t do nothin’ to them.”
Luke shrugged his shoulders and looked out the front window. Jenson’s Creek was coming up fast.
“Uh, you do realize there ain’t no bridge over that creek.”
“Yeah, but it’s either jump it or turn around…and I don’t want to turn around. Do you?”
“Nope…step on it, Cuz.”
Just as Bo gunned the engine, preparing to jump, shots rang out.
“They’re shootin’ at us!” Bo said in a panicked voice.
Luke ducked down in the seat and tried to get Bo to scoot down as much as he could. More shots were fired as the General sped ever closer toward the creek. Just as Bo sat up a little higher in order to line the car up for the jump, two bullets pierced the back window.
Luke yelped, “Whoa! That was a little closer than I like it. Way to go, Cousin! They’re not gonna try to follow us over…” Luke stopped and looked on in horror as the car sped toward the creek. Something was wrong; they were headed for the woods, not the small clearing on the other side. “Bo…straighten up! That’s gonna be a rough landin’…Bo?” Luke looked over at his cousin.
He briefly caught sight of Bo slumped over the steering wheel, blood staining the back of his head, before the General, completely off course, went airborne and slammed straight into a grove of trees on the other side of the creek. The impact threw both Bo and Luke from the car. Luke was briefly knocked unconscious. He awoke and found himself lying in a ditch near the creek. His head throbbed and his left leg hurt beyond belief. He gave himself a quick once over and determined that a cut on his forehead and a broken leg were the worst of his injuries. He suddenly remembered his last picture of Bo; unmoving and blood staining his bright blond hair.
“Oh my God! Bo! Bo, where are you?”
Luke struggled to drag himself to the wrecked remains of the General Lee. The car looked terrible, but foremost on his mind now was his cousin.
After a few minutes search, Luke found Bo. The younger man was lying a few yards away from the car. He was lying face up, unmoving, and was covered in cuts and scratches. Luke crawled over to his cousin and tried to rouse him.
Thankfully, Bo was breathing and had a rapid but steady heartbeat. He appeared to have no obviously broken bones. Luke braced himself for what he would find as he put his hand beneath his cousin’s head. His hand was instantly covered in blood. He found an entrance wound. Luke’s heart almost stopped. Bo had been shot…and the bullet was still lodged in his head! Luke paled and almost fainted. He had seen too many men die in ‘Nam from bullet wounds like this. How was Bo going to survive getting shot in the head…plus a car accident on top of that? He had to get help. Luke struggled to get to the General’s CB, praying that it still worked.
His prayers were answered and he was able to radio for help. To Luke’s pain and fear addled mind, it seemed he and Bo were almost immediately surrounded by people. Jesse, Daisy, Cooter, Roscoe, Enos and the ambulance personnel had all been alerted by Luke’s frantic radio message.
After a brief stay in the hospital, Luke was able to leave with nothing more than a cast on his left leg and crutches.
Bo, however, had to be flown to Atlanta for emergency surgery to remove the bullet and skull fragments from his brain. He stayed in the trauma unit for a couple of weeks and was transferred back to Tri-County General.
After the doctors realized Bo was not coming out of his coma any time soon, he was moved to the Long-Term Care unit. Bo arrived in the unit looking shockingly different. His head had been shaved for the surgery and he was hooked up to so many machines! He had not moved or made a sound since the accident. Luke and Daisy didn’t know what upset them more…the sight of Bo attached to life-support machines, the sight of the incision on his nearly bald head or the fact that Bo was so unnaturally still and quiet. Daisy fretted about Bo’s hair and was overjoyed when the blond strands began to grow back long enough to cover the ugly scar. Bo was given a very slim chance of ever waking up. The Duke’s were told that with his type of injury, many people who did manage to wake up were left severely brain damaged. The medical staff really didn’t expect Bo to live as long as he had. Jesse told them all that Bo was a Duke and that ‘Duke’s didn’t give up the fight.’ Luke often joked that Bo was too stubborn to get up and too stubborn to die and that he would wake up only when he was good and ready. The Duke family stayed by Bo’s side, praying and hoping he would regain consciousness at any time. They had almost lost him several times over the last six months due to breathing complications due his history of asthma, fever due to infections, and now this severe case of pneumonia.
Luke remembered one of the doctors telling him “this is usually how cases like this end up: dying from pneumonia”…but Beauregard Duke was not just a “case”! ‘He has a life, he has a family…he’s got too much left to do. He’s only 25, for Christ’s sake! He’s not supposed to die like this…helpless. He’d want to go out fightin’.’
Luke finished his daily replay of the accident…finding once again that there was nothing he could have done to protect his ‘baby brother’. Cooter had managed to restore the beloved orange Charger to its former condition, but Luke could barely bring himself to drive it without his “co-pilot”. He continued to stare out the window for a few minutes before turning to look at the still young man in the bed across the room. He still couldn’t believe that his younger cousin, the one that was always so full of energy, mischief and life, was lying there…motionless and lifeless except for the constant hiss of the ventilator and soft beeping of the heart monitor and IV machines. He slowly sat down in the hard chair that he, Jesse, Daisy, or sometimes Cooter or Enos had occupied at one time or another since Bo’s admittance to the hospital. He reached out and grasped the limp, cool hand of his cousin. Luke swallowed hard. Bo felt too cold, too lifeless!
“Bo, it’s me. I’m here, now. Look, I know you don’t want to live like this…but, don’t leave us…please, Cousin! Don’t leave, not yet. You have to wake up and be alright. If you don’t, they’re gonna let you die! Please, Bo, listen to me,” Luke begged his still cousin.
The dark-haired man leaned over and laid his head on the bed. He couldn’t be strong any longer. His body soon shook with emotions that had been held in check ever since that day, six months ago.
Meghan Riley was making her usual rounds. The patients in her ward were not difficult to deal with, just time consuming. She felt the only problem was getting too attached to these long-term patients. She was having an unusually hard time trying not to get attached to one patient in particular. Meghan had started work at Tri-County General about three weeks before this young man was admitted to the Long-Term/Rehabilitative Care Unit and he had been her patient ever since the day he arrived. He was very attractive and something about him just seemed to draw her to him… even though he had been badly injured and had been completely unresponsive since. From his family members, she had gotten an idea of his past and his personality and she longed to know the man Bo Duke had been before his arrival into her world. When she worked with the blond-haired man she found herself opening her heart and soul to him. She knew he couldn’t respond to her, but she couldn’t explain to herself or anyone else why she felt such a connection to this man. She actually felt…as crazy as it sounded…that she could be falling in love with Bo Duke!
“Great, Meghan! You have to go and fall in love with a man who’s in a coma! You can’t do anything normal, can you?” she thought as she gathered supplies needed in Bo’s room. She had been off work for the last week, taking a long overdue trip home, and was concerned to hear that Bo had contracted a case of pneumonia and was taking a turn for the worse. She hoped to have some time alone with her favorite patient to talk to him and maybe reconcile her feelings for him before any thing happened. Meghan fought back tears. She couldn’t get overly emotional…she was a nurse! She had to be professional and show her concern for a patient in a more reserved way.
Meghan juggled the medical supplies and clean linens as she approached the door to Bo Duke’s room. She paused in the doorway as she heard heart-wrenching sobs coming from within. Her heart clenched and her blood ran cold, ‘Oh, no! He’s gone!’ she thought.
All thoughts of professionalism went out the window as her concern for Bo took over. “What’s wrong? Bo!” she cried and dropped the items she carried to the floor as she ran into the room.
Luke Duke jerked his head up in surprise. He noticed Bo’s usual nurse, Meghan, standing at his side, with a look of sheer panic on her face.
“Meghan! It’s good to see you back. We missed you last week,” he said as he wiped his eyes and tried to regain his composure.
“It’s good to see you, too. What’s going on? How is he?” Meghan asked as she went around to the other side of the bed and started to examine Bo. She was shocked to realize that while she was gone, his breathing had gotten so bad that he had been placed on a ventilator. Meghan listened to his heart and lungs and checked every monitoring line and piece of tubing that ran into or out of his body. When she had assessed Bo to her satisfaction, finding that Bo was alive, but a great deal worse than when she last saw him, she looked up at the dark-haired man, questioningly.
Luke had sat quietly, watching as the petite, brown-haired nurse performed her duties. He knew she cared for Bo, but the look of worry she had and the gentle, tender touch she used now let Luke know that she felt a lot more than professional concern for his cousin.
“It’s bad, Meghan. They don’t think he’ll make it through the night,” he paused at her sharp intake of breath. Luke stood and placed a steadying hand on the young nurse’s shoulder. He watched as she stroked a small hand through his cousin’s unruly blond hair before continuing.
“The doctor’s are saying that even if he does live…he won’t have much of a chance of surviving for very long or most likely will never recover. They’ve advised Uncle Jesse to pull the plug and just let him pass on…peaceful-like…so he won’t suffer any more.” Luke’s voice was strained, showing his difficulty with coming to terms with the finality of his cousin’s condition.
Meghan could hardly believe what she had heard. She knew Bo had been in a bad state, but she had always been optimistic that he would improve with time. He couldn’t die…not without knowing that she loved him. It wouldn’t really make any difference…she knew…but she had to tell him. She took a shuddering breath and looked up at Bo’s cousin for some sort of comfort or unrealistic assurance that Bo would be fine. Luke had been there everyday and had become a good friend to her, as had all of Bo’s family and friends.
Luke could see the pain and tears in Meghan’s eyes. He pulled her into a gentle hug. She rested her head on his chest. She tried not to cry but she couldn’t hold back her feelings any longer. Meghan held onto Luke tightly and spilled out her heart. Even though he could barely understand her words, Luke knew that she was telling him that she loved Bo. He thought how Bo would have fallen head over heels for this little nurse and would have tried every way possible to impress her…and he still managed to get her to fall in love with him anyway, even when he was unconscious!
Luke held Meghan, patting her back to comfort her. “You know what? I have a feeling he’d be crazy about you, too.” Luke said.
“Really?” Meghan asked as she gently pulled out of Luke’s embrace, wiping her red eyes and streaming nose.
Bo Duke seemed to come in and out of a thick fog. He couldn’t move a muscle and he barely felt anything. He grasped bits and pieces of what was happening around him and tried to make some sense of it all. During his brief periods of awareness, Bo could not see but he could hear everything going on around him. He could hear the rhythmic whooshing of the ventilator and the soft beeping of the machines. ‘I guess I’m in a hospital…but why? Luke said I need to wake up…something about not leaving yet…and they’re gonna let me die? What’s goin’ on? Why am I here…what the heck happened?’ Bo’s mind was whirling. He had no idea what was going on. Was this actually real or was it a dream?
Would he wake up in the cemetery beside Meghan’s grave or…wait, someone was touching him…a woman’s hands…not Daisy, but he recognized her touch.
‘Meggie?’ He knew it was her! His sweet angel was there, alive! She was touching him, speaking to him, stroking her fingers through his hair. He heard her telling Luke that she loved him! Him! Not Luke! Bo’s heart soared. His Meggie was alive and loved him, Luke didn’t hate him, and he had his life before him… he had to let them know he wanted to live!
He vaguely remembered hearing his Uncle Jesse talking to someone about turning off the machines…
‘That’s what Luke meant. They’re gonna let me die!’ He had to wake up!
‘I don’t know what happened, but I’m not ready to die yet! Damn it, why can’t I move? If I could just open my eyes or something…just to let them know I’m here!’
Unbeknownst to Luke and Meghan, Bo was gradually, bit by bit, coming out of his coma. He was still a long way from being fully awake, but he was becoming more aware of his surroundings and trying to wake up. His frustration at not being able to wake up, however, was playing havoc with his vital signs.
Meghan and Luke were alerted that something was going on by the shrill, rapid beeping of Bo’s cardiac monitor.
“What’s goin’ on?” Luke asked, panic evident in his voice.
“His heart is racing. It needs to slow down or he’ll go into cardiac arrest. Something’s happening…Bo, can you hear me? You have to calm down, honey. You need to calm down, now. Your heart can’t take this. Bo, sweetie, listen to me.” Meghan spoke softly to Bo. She had sat down on the edge of his bed and was stroking the side of the blond man’s face and his hair, trying to slow his racing heart. Bo instinctively responded to her touch and his heart rate slowly returned to normal. As the beeping of the monitor slowed down and returned to its normal pitch and rhythm, Luke let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. He laid a shaky hand on his cousin’s head and said a brief prayer of thanks.
Meghan pulled a blood pressure cuff from the bedside table and wrapped it around Bo’s left arm. She spent a few minutes checking his vital signs. She lifted his eyelids and checked his pupils…a routine action she had done many times since Bo had been on her ward…this time, however, the petite brunette saw something that shocked her. She gasped and turned to look at Luke.
“He responded!” She said, excitedly.
“His pupils…they responded to the light. For the first time since I’ve been taking care of him, his eyes responded to light! Luke, do you know what this means?” Meghan had almost jumped off the bed in glee.
“Is he gettin’ better?” Luke asked, still a bit unnerved from Bo’s close call.
“Well, I don’t really know if he’s getting better…but he’s definitely starting to wake up! That’s the most response he’s given us in six months.” Meghan’s mind was reeling. Would he wake up…could it finally be possible…or is this a cruel twist of fate to get everyone’s hopes up before he dies? If he did wake up, would Bo be able to recognize his family? Would he be able to function…or would he spend the rest of his life in this place…with someone tending to him like a baby. More importantly to Meghan…would she be able to tell Bo that she loved him and could that love ever be returned?
Luke could barely believe what the nurse, whom he and his family had started to regard as a close friend, was saying.
“Do you really mean it’s possible? I mean…could he…he is! I just know it…Bo, I knew you’d come out of this!” Luke stood by his cousin’s bed and squeezed his hand. The normally calm and collected man was almost jumping in his excitement.
“Now Luke, don’t get your hopes up…Bo’s still not out of the woods yet…” Meghan cautioned, her professional attitude taking over; but inside she was just as excited as Luke.
“I need to find Uncle Jesse and Daisy.” Luke said as he turned toward the door. In his hurry, Luke almost barreled into the two people coming into Bo’s room.
“Hold up, boy. Where are you headed in such an all-fired hurry?” said a familiar, tired and somewhat troubled voice.
Luke immediately stopped. His uncle reached out and grasped both of Luke’s arms…almost as if to steady himself. “What’s wrong…is it Bo? Has something happened?” Jesse asked…fearing the worst. Daisy rushed into the room without waiting to hear Luke’s reply to their uncle’s questions.
Luke broke into a smile…his crystal blue eyes sparking like they did before the accident. “He’s waking up, Uncle Jesse…Meghan said so. He’s gonna wake up and he’s gonna be fine! I just know it…Bo’s too stubborn to let this beat him!” Luke said; his face set in conviction, as if his saying the words would make them come true.
Jesse stared at his dark-haired nephew. He wanted so badly to believe him, but the doctors seemed so sure this time that Bo was almost gone. He held tightly to Luke and looked over to the little nurse that had taken such good care of Bo.
“Miss Riley? Is it true? Is my boy finally wakin’ up?” The old man almost shook with emotion.
“Well, he responded a little when I checked him a few minutes ago. Mr. Duke, Daisy,” she said, looking to each of them and almost bouncing in her glee, “…I really think Bo’s gonna wake up for us! I agree with Luke…I just know he’s ready to come back to the real world! He’s still in bad shape…don’t forget that…but, maybe he’ll at least open those pretty blue eyes of his and…” She stopped her train of thought abruptly and blushed brightly. She looked at the stunned and hopeful family, knowing that they noticed her embarrassment. “Um, I need to go get Dr. Shackelford…he’ll want to come check him.” Meghan hastily left the room in search of Bo’s main physician.