Monday, December 3, 2012

Play On

There are times in races or on runs when you must soldier on, despite what obstacles decide to pop up.  Of course, everyone knows that we really have a choice of whether to keep going or shut it down, but sometimes we don't allow ourselves choices and we just continue.   These reasons vary and are often times quite personal.  Sometimes it's to prove to ourselves we can.  Sometimes it's to prove to others that we can.  And then sometimes it's to honor someone who we know would want us to go on... to keep trying, keep pushing and finish what was started.  So often the ability to push aside the challenges and keep going are the result of years of life experience and practice.  The trials of failure and the victories of winning serve to propel us forward until we are finished.

But there is nothing quite like witnessing the tough challenging of continuing on from a group of 13/14 year old boys, or as I like to call them, "man-children".

Will had his first regular season basketball game yesterday.  We pulled into the parking lot simultaneously with my friend Deb and her family.  Her son, Sergio, is a friend and teammate of Will's.
As Deb and I exchanged hellos, the boys walked ahead together and into the gym.  Deb and I filed onto the bleachers and settled in to watch the end of a game already in progress.  Somehow the conversation came to the startling fact that our boys were getting ready for high school.  We talked about how some of our boys have been together since preschool.  This was where Will met Sergio and I met Deb.  We laughed as I recalled Will's 5th birthday party.  As Deb dropped Sergio off, he asked his mom to write down their phone number in case he needed to call her.  About midway through the party, Serg asked to use my phone.  He took the crumpled up paper from his pocket and dialed the number.  "Hi mom!  What are you guys up to?  Good... yes it's fun.  I just called to say hi.  Ok... I love you too.  Bye."  His little self could barely reach the phone dock on the wall as he tip-toed to hang up.  He then proceeded to join the boys again as if all was well.  I will never forget that.  This small boy who needed his mom's voice of reassurance.  Once he heard it, the world was right.  We also laughed as Sergio then proceeded to invite all the boys to his house for a sleepover.  He did that often, without first consulting with Deb.  One time Sergio called Will and asked if he could spend the night.  Knowing Sergio's habit of concocting grand parties without his mother's knowledge, I asked to speak to Deb.  Sure enough, when Deb got on the phone, she knew nothing of the invitation and then said "That could explain why he's hiding under the table right now..."

When the game in progress was over, we moved seats to the "home" side and settled in.   All the boys playing had known each other at least since kindergarten.  I noticed the difference a year makes in watching the intensity of  the playing.  They all looked so BIG and were so physical.  The game was intense and exciting, with our boys trailing by a hair, then getting ahead by a hair.  Sometime during the third quarter, Will and Sergio collided while going for a rebound.  In a split second both boys were on the ground.  I saw the boy's coach jump up and run and as I looked over, I saw Sergio in the midst of a full-blown seizure.

Instinctively I raced over.  Deb was already at his side.  Sergio was having a grand mal seizure after the back of his head slammed to the gym floor.  His arms were straight ahead and fists were closed tight and posturing.  As I looked at his faced I noticed the blue color getting more apparent.  Sergio was not breathing.  His eyes were wide and fixed and his body was jerking wildly.  Deb kept him on his left side as I began to recall the steps of CPR in my head.  Would his mother be able to do this?  Deb is an advanced practice nurse and was more than capable, but to her own boy?  I kneeled down... frantic in my head, calm on the outside.  In a frenzy of activity, I looked up and saw the boys... his friends... watching in horror as their friend lay on the ground.  All I could do in the moment was say "God, please take over.  Please help him."  Nothing else came to mind.  In an instant I feared that Deb and Steve were watching their son's life as they knew it, slip away.  I feared that even with survival, a blow to the head that was hard enough to cause this seizure, was going to have some serious and life changing effects on his brain.

Slowly, Sergio's body began to relax.  His grunts turned to deep breaths and the color began to return.  With the blink of his eyes, he looked around and looked a bit perplexed.  Deb continued to calmly talk to him and tell him he was ok.  "Do you know what day it is?"  In very slurred manner, Sergio replied, "Sunday."  Praise God!  "Do you know where you are?"  "Basketball."  Again, a wave of relief like none other washed over me (can't even imagine what that was like for Deb).  Little by little, Sergio's speech became more coherent.  "I hit my head... Jeezo Pete!"  It was clear that he knew exactly who he was, where he was and what he had been doing.  I heard the distant sound of siren's approaching.  Deb kept him laying there and I noticed his right arm, still straight ahead and his fist clenched.  I had yet to see him move (although she kept him still, I wasn't really sure he could move yet).  When the paramedics arrived, they questioned him and his mother.  I saw them check his head and then run their fingers down the back of his spine.  Not having seen him move yet and noticing the position of his fist and arm, I held my breath, fearful of what was going to be discovered.  "Hey buddy, can you sit up?"  The EMT took his top arm and slowly Sergio began to move it.  He then pushed himself up to a sitting position and looked up and began answering questions appropriately.

What I did not know was that while Sergio's body lay in a fit on the floor, one of the mom's had huddled his frightened teammates together.  Some of them were crying.  She led them in prayer.  Now I don't know how often God gets the undivided attention of some very sincere, helpless, panic stricken eighth grade boys.  But I can't help but think that God's infinite compassion and love for these young men who were turning to him had much to do with Sergio's amazing turnabout.  I compare it to parents who love all of their children, fiercely and equally.  But there is something about that little one who can ask for things unlike the bigger ones.  Something happens that softens you so much when the tiniest voice in the family cries out in need or makes a request.

As Sergio was loaded on the stretcher and strapped in, they sat him up.  I was certain the game was going to be called after that kind of traumatic event.   But Sergio requested the game continue.  And so after he was safely in the ambulance, the boys played on.

No doubt they were shaken.  But those boys jumped back in the game and did as their buddy had requested.  They finished it.

Sergio was taken to Children's Hospital, where he was evaluated and had a CAT scan.  The scan was normal... no fracture in the skull and a bad concussion.  And so with precautions, they sent him home.

I continue to witness God's presence and power everywhere.  I am reminded how fragile this life is and how it can change in a split second.  I am humbled beyond words that He was right with Sergio, his family and his friends and took complete control of a situation that could have gone so much differently.  I believe these boys witnessed it also and for that, I am so thankful.

First grade trip to Applefest
From left:  Sergio, Claire, Michael H., Patrick, Will, Dylan and Jonathan
All but Claire are on the basketball team, along with some not pictured

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