Yesterday was the first day of our MLS season. For years now I have looked forward to this day. My professional team opens the season. The weather is usually excellent and it is going to be a wonderful day.
This season things turned out different. The last twenty four hours has been a life changing time. I have experienced every imaginable emotion someone can experience.
March 10th will live me with forever. It started out getting off of work. I came home and after the long night at work as a paramedic, I was most interested in getting some sleep. I managed to do this. My wife and the kids had gathered up most of what we would need for the two hour trek to the stadium.
We had plans to attend the pregame tailgate. It is part of the atmosphere. There are hotdogs, snacks, drinks, and friends. The kids can play on the grass, the adults can make educated guesses about the upcoming game. This part of the day is awesome. You look into the crowd and realize that you are not the only soccer fan, and more importantly, that you are not the only Rapids supporter. Many of us are close like family. We text, we twitter, we facebook. These are people I would to have as neighbors. Can’t we all just live at the stadium?
The pregame festivities end and it is time to head into the stadium. After a quick stop at our car to grab our scarves, we make our way to the gates. This is where it becomes real. You hand the ticket over, they scan it and allow you entry. You walk through the gate and you see it. The field, the stands, the people, the sunshine, the perfect grass, the players warming up. I look at my family, all of them, this is the one thing we all have in common. We all love being here and are proud to bleed burgundy.
It is normal for us to walk around the entire stadium, we don’t want the toddlers to feel trapped in our front row seats for too long. The lap around helps everyone settle in. Since it is the first home game, the crowds are bigger, the casual fan makes it to this game. In the weeks and games that follow, the casual fan decides which games have potential for excitement. The true and devoted fans are there hot or cold, day or night, weekday or weekend; crappy teams or the teams with the big names, we are there supporting the burgundy boys.
We take our seats. We don’t sit down, not until the first kick has actually happened. We are “scarves up” as the teams head onto the field. We are solemn during the anthem, we cheer and yell as the starters are announced. We stand til the ref receives the signal from the Red Cap (TV timing producer) and blows the whistle. The kicking team moves the ball forward and we settle in to watch 90 minutes of my team versus someone.
Today we sit and watch. Five minutes pass before I feel that the referee has screwed us over. Tori had moved up the the row behind us she wanted to sit with the older step kids. Jack was standing up between me and Dy-Anne. I have picture that was snapped. He looked so serious. He was watching the game he was interested. Another part of my family gets it. These soccer games are fun, and a part of our life.
Now moments like these cannot last forever although I wish they did, because what happened next tested every fiber of my being, caused me to be someone that reacts to the worlds worst and tries to make it just slightly better. In one fraction of a second I turned from avid soccer fan, to father, to concerned father, to freaking out father, to franticly reacting paramedic. For 90 seconds that day I felt as bad, scared, freaked out as any person could ever be.
It starts with Jack standing on the metal bench, and in unfortunately a billionth of a second I see the blur that is my toddler, my little man, the one who was just watching the game falling toward the concrete floor. I heard the worst thud possible. Yes he had fell headfirst onto that concrete.
Dy-Anne scooped him up quickly he stopped crying, he literally went out. I grabbed him away, i will forever remember that his eyes were closed, not forced closed like he was in pain, but just closed. His skin color was pale, he was bubbling at the mouth and there was a small amount of blood. He was concussed.
It took less than a millionth of a second for paramedic Scott to show up, I was no longer father, I was basic life support guy, with a thousand thoughts flying through my head, I opened his little jaw, looked and listened for breathing, his limp body just floating in my arms. Being me, I was thankful he was breathing, he had a brachial pulse, but was completely out. I yelled for the security guard to get the stadium medics, and asked loudly for a watch. I saw the time on my wifes phone. 4:23. I needed seconds and I couldn’t wait. I ran with him I got two steps and my alert wife asked for the car keys, she knew I wasn’t coming back to this game with Jack. I had one thought. 26 rows to the top, I can sprint carrying him to the first aid station. So I took off, no goodbyes, no kisses for anyone. I needed help. I wanted to die at that moment.
…. I have spent my career being that person. I am the guy you want in your emergency. It sounds arrogant, I have to be. I save lives, I am the calm voice you need to here, I am the rational one. I am the one who has seen everything, I am not scared of blood, bones, tragedy turns me into super medic. I can deal with anything. I am your best friend if you are truly in need of emergency services…. I AM A PARAMEDIC.
I was helpless, I am sure my chest was pounding, I am sure I was pale, I am sure I was shaking worse than anyone could. I stumbled to the paramedics rushing toward me. The calmest one in the bunch received jack from me and held him and quickly realized things about Jack that if I would have been in my right mind, I would have noticed as well. Jack was breathing, his color had returned, he was trying to open his eyes. He was still out, but was alive. It felt like we were flying to the stadium first aid station. The next thing I consciously remember feels like 10 minutes later. Jack was back, he sat up off the bed slowly and started clapping. I am sure he heard the crowd outside. The ambulance is on its way to take us to Children’s Hospital ER. Jack is awake and wants down off the bed. The paramedics are being that calm level headed type people that I think I am usually.
I lost 8 minutes. I guess during that time I called my wife in a calm voice and told her it was better, that we were going in an ambulance, and that I would keep in touch. I don’t truly remember that. I don’t remember giving the medics all the pertinent information. I do not remember the Rapids staff member asking me where we were, what happened and if I needed anything. I vaguely remember this staff member handing us a ball to distract Jack with.
I realized I was dim. It is the only way I can explain it. I turned down emotions, I was focused, where the hell is that ambulance, I had somberly answers all the questions they asked clearly and concisely as if I were a robot. At least that is what they told me after I had calmed down and realized Jack was ok.
We travelled down a secret elevator, we arrived back out into fresh air. Jack was looking around. The Rural Metro ambulance was there. We climbed in and there was no question, I was riding in back with my boy. Hell, I was not going to let him out of my sight.
The ride to the hospital was uneventful, my dullness continued. I need Jack to see a doctor, not just a medic. I needed someone smarter than me to tell me this. I was coherent enough when we got to Children’s hospital that I was capable of telling the Rural Metro ambulance crew what the code was for the ambulance entrance door.
We were swept into a room and things started to calm down. I had moments of clarity and fought hard to pull back in my emotions I was an advocate for my son, not the nervous nellie that was going to bawl and be a helpless little blob.
The doctors exam was quick but thorough, the nurses were good and within a few minutes, common sense kicked in. The frontal bone is hard and thick, Jack was now acting normal, he had not thrown up. He was showing no signs of an internal head issue. He was going to be observed and if nothing else went awry we were going to go home later that night.
Did I mention we are two hours from home. Did I mention we have no relatives. Did I mention that my wife was now stuck at a stadium with four kids and no husband. She was leaving our beloved soccer grounds with less people than she arrived with.
We have friends and soccer family. She was able to talk with Teddy, and Angel. They were awesome I guess. Somehow Angel was going to take the older kids and if Dy-Anne could drive she was going to get to the hospital. Awesome people who didn’t need to do anything, they did something.
Meanwhile Jack and I were hanging out at the emergency room. The doctor ordered some food for Jack and he was chowing down on Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, carrots and green beans. He was hungry, I was not. I guess my parasympathetic system was still shunting everything to sympathetic (fight or flight). After what seemed like forever Jack and I sat curled up on the hospital bed and while he slept (the doctor said he could) I finally had to let go. I cried as quietly as I could. Everything hit me, I am pretty sure I cried myself right to sleep with him.
I awoke to my phone going crazy, texts and phone calls. My father in law was calling and Dy-Anne and Torio were walking in. Almost immediately Torio had to go to the bathroom, so Dy went down the hall with her. I looked at Jack who had pushed up against my chest and had used my arm as a pillow. I gently tried to peel away so I could stand while hoping to leave him on the bed. Of course I failed and he woke up, but the lucky little man managed to wake up fully to see his momma. That ten minutes of sleep recharged me. I am sure I was stoic again but held onto Dy and Jack for the longest hug ever.
A couple of diaper changes later, a few juice boxes later, and finally the Doctor was allowing us to go home. We collected our stuff, left the ED and headed for some food. The stomach I guess can only shut down for so long.
We gathered the older kids from the soccer friends house. We packed up in our van and headed home. He hadn’t even hit the freeway and many of the kids were asleep. Not far down the road, Dy was asleep as well. I kept my emotions in check and focused on the final task of the evening. I needed to safely get us all home.
I did, it wasn’t easy, there was way too much quiet time for me to think. But in not wanting to wake anyone, or disturb that peace, I kept it in. The emotional roller coaster that was that day was coming around it’s last corner.
Our driveway was a welcome sight. The rest of the story is simple, the kids went to bed, Jack was tucked peacefully and safely in his crib. Dy-Anne quite literally was exhausted. She fell asleep not easily but quickly. After two hours of driving and about four hours at the hospital, you would think I would easily close my eyes and go to sleep. You’d be wrong. I was there, I was comfortable on my pillow and bed, the room was dark, but I just couldn’t shut down. I was up for at least another hour or two. I lost track. I constantly listened for Jack I would get nervous if didn’t hear him at least once every few minutes. I have good hearing and at one point was counting his respirations.
When I finally did go to sleep it didn’t last long. I was up every hour at least for a couple of minutes. I probably got up five times, till Dy just brought him to bed. I could finally relax.
He is absolutely fine today. He just woke up from a slightly long nap, but is doing well. Jack is enjoying some Yo Gabba Gabba on netflix and noshed on some pizza. He finished his water bottle and seems to be just Jack, and life is good.