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But the suffering persisted. Within forty-eight hours of Matt’s surgery, he was wheeled from floor to floor, from ward to ward. Each bump made him cringe in pain. Each time he was transferred from his bed to various examination tables, he groaned and sweated. But he never screamed. He never panicked. He had chest X rays, skeletal X rays, CAT scans, magnetic resonance images. Some of these procedures required him to remain immobile, stifling his agony, for an hour.

Then his bone marrow had to be tested. Lying on his good side, fighting the excruciating stress on his bad side, he gripped David’s hand with the force of a wrestler and endured the threaded point of a needle being screwed through each buttock and into each hip bone. The needle probed to the very center of each bone and extracted marrow.

David had no idea what marrow looked like. He imagined it resembled bone. But as the needle was unscrewed from each hip and its contents pushed onto a microscope slide, he saw that bone marrow looked like blood, the thickest, the darkest he’d ever seen.

The tests were completed. The waiting began.

Three days of unimaginably nerve-taut waiting while David, Donna, and Sarie worked every minute to make Matt as comfortable as possible and strained to alleviate his mental alarm.

“Hope, Matthew. Hope.”

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