Monday, September 24, 2012

Soccer: The Most Dangerous Sport in the World at 5pm on a Wednesday Afternoon

The whole world stops when you get a text from your wife that reads “911! 911!”

As I frantically dialed and envisioned major head trauma, the phone rang and I was calmly informed by my wife that the ambulance had arrived and my daughter had likely broken her arm in a fall at soccer skills camp. My mother watched the boy and I raced off to the park breaking land speed limits as my heart rate kept pace with the car. I told myself that she would be alright and that her arm would be fine, but my confidence left the building when I saw the ambulance in the parking lot

She was crying but stable in the ambulance with my wife. “Are you OK? It’s going to be fine! I love you!” The EMT told me that her arm was probably just sprained while his partner nodded no behind her. With my eyes, I punched him in the head. “I’m scared mommy! Why do you have to ride up front?! I don’t want the flashing lights!” The doors closed and I followed the ambulance but quickly lost them in traffic. I was helpless and everything was beyond my control. It was like being in the movie Taken, but we were in the suburbs, I have no special set of skills, and I didn’t know how to help my daughter.

At the hospital, we waited for three hours through assessments, pain killer, x-rays, and eventually the world’s worst question to ask parents in a hospital. “Can we step outside to discuss (fill in the blank) your daughter’s arm?” Note to doctors – This is a good idea to keep the patient at ease, but not a good idea when you utter the phrase loudly in front of the patient. Children pick up on things like words, phrases, and clauses.

The break was clear through the bone just above her elbow and required pins to reconnect the bones. My scared 7 year old daughter had to go in to surgery and was going to stay overnight. My wife began to cry. I would no longer be helpless! I was going to do something! I began to get angry. I was angry at the soccer coach, the doctor, and the world to put my daughter through this situation. Becoming angry in situations beyond our control is a wonderful inherited Bargiel trait like parental kryptonite and I needed a self-imposed time-out before I caused permanent damage.

I told my wife that she couldn’t cry around Julia and she quickly composed herself. (She was a rock through the entire ordeal and made Julia’s experience that best it could be under the circumstances.) I offered to pick up Julia’s things and race back to the hospital before surgery which was scheduled for “When We Get to It” o’clock. I raced home, told my parents the latest news, read the fastest chapter of Willy Wonka ever, put the boy to bed, threw together Julia’s things, and raced back to the hospital. I missed the surgeon but saw my daughter being wheeled into surgery. “I want my mommy! I want to go to school tomorrow!” “Don’t you worry, she’ll be fine and she won’t remember any of this.” Teary-eyed, my wife and I went to the family surgical unit waiting room to look for the hearts that had fallen out of our chests and broken on the floor.
Pacing and running to a small windowed door every time someone passes is not an effective use of time, but it will scare the crap out of every cleaning person in the building. The surgeon emerged and she told us that everything would be OK and a bit of sunshine parted the clouds. The break was a type she had seen only five times in twenty years, but Julia would be out of pins in a week and out of a cast in 4 weeks. I thought that was quick and she reminded me that I wasn’t a surgeon. As she left, she asked me if I played football and what did I think about kids playing at eight years old. Her boys were very interested in football.  “As long as you have coaches who stress fun, learning, and safety, you’ll be fine. It’s the evil sport of soccer that takes our children away!” She smiled and backed away slowly until she reached the door and was gone. I needed sleep or an adreline shot.

Julia refused to wake up in recovery but was responsive and 1AM was just a bit past her bedtime. She was wheeled to pediatrics, we met the night nurse, set up the bed for my wife, and began to go over the game plan for the morning when we both heard a shaky voice. “Where am I? When do I go into surgery?!” “You’re in a hospital bed and the surgery is all over, baby. You did great.” My daughter, Julia, looked at her arm which was casted from shoulder to elbow and announced in a steady voice, “That’s right, I was in surgery and I was very brave.” And then she went back to sleep. Yes, you were very brave baby and I’m so proud of you and don’t you ever, ever, ever do that again.

That would be a wonderful ending to the story but she woke up a few minutes later and asked for Kermit, one of her many stuffed animals, and when she found out that I had left him at home it was no longer important that I remain by her bedside. I was shunned because I had broken the golden rule of leaving no frog behind. As I headed home for four hours of sleep, I reflected on my first major crisis as a dad. Julia was OK, I kept my stupidity to a rare minimum, and my wife was still talking to me in a pleasant tone.  It was a sweet victory and hopefully a precursor of future battles, but I knew defeat was just around the corner if I forgot her crocs or that damn frog in the morning.

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