Yesterday was supposed to be the best day for our family. It was the first day of soccer season. The weather was AMAZING. I mean simply beautiful. We took our long drive to the stadium. We stuffed ourselves on hotdogs and baked potatoes at the tailgate. We played on the fields next to the stadium. Did I mention the weather? It was a perfect day for soccer. I was a little annoyed with myself for not grabbing a second pair of pants for the littlest. He was doing army crawls up and down the hill since he hasn’t been walking long enough to manage walking up and down. His knees got all dirty. The only reason this mattered is because after the game we were going to head to the mall where we had an appointment to get family pictures taken. My husband and I will have been married 5 years in July but we have never had any type of family portraits done so we figured it would be a good day since we would already be in matching albums.
Well that great day ended sometimes between 4:12 pm when I tweeted about highlighter colored keeps jerseys and 4:23pm which is the time my husband says was on my phone when I finally picked it up off the ground so he could see the seconds ticking by. Seconds that I thought were being used to take my 15 month old son’s pulse or to count his respirations or even to just time how long he had been unconscious. At this point I am sure it was an eternity.
We have front row seats, but there are only three seats and the older kids have seats in the third row because row two was taken. Typically my 2 year old sits with us but when her bubbas are there she wants to sit with them. I guess at just a few days under three years old we are already not cool enough for her. So the 15 month old, Jack, is with us. He is in the baby carrier on my back until after the national anthem and basically until kick off cause we stand that whole time.
He was excited at all the commotion. He was into it. Standing on the bench between my husband and I with a season ticket hold scarf wrapped around his neck clapping away. It was adorable. I regret that cuteness. I regret not being able to foresee the future. I regret how things were going to end up. I regret not putting him by the gate so he could stand and see the game. All the regret in the world won’t change what happened next.
Out my peripheral vision I see a blur, immediately it registers in my brain that my baby is upside down on the cement. He had fallen off the bench head first into the ground. He was upside down on his head when I scooped him up and held him close to me. He was screaming understandably. I turned to my husband and showed him to him. He’s a paramedic so I wanted to know he was ok. He took the baby from me and I could see Jack was bleeding in his mouth. Then the worst thing that could possibly happen happened.
Jack closed his eyes and stopped crying. He should have still been screaming his head off. I wish he had been screaming his head off. Instead I he had lost consciousness. He didn’t look like himself. It was like he was asleep but didn’t have that peaceful look he does when he’s asleep. He was limp in my husbands arms. Utter fear was apparent in my husband’s face. This is a man who is trained to keep it together in the face of tragedy, but he wasn’t a paramedic right now. He was a daddy with his limp son in his arms. Jack was bubbling spit and it was blood tinged. My husband yelled at the security guy to call the paramedics down. This was serious. I was starting to panic. It seemed like nothing was going to happen. We waited. Jack kinda came to but he wasn’t himself. Still no one was coming. I told my husband to go find them. In a shocking moment of clarity I made him dig his keys out of his pockets and give them too me. I knew neither of them would be coming back.
Yes I stayed in my seat at the game. What help could I have been? What help would me and 4 additional children have been? Absolutely none.
I was still at the game but it was over for me at that point. Head injuries are bad and they are worse when they are closed head injuries because if there is any bleeding there is no place for it to go. I was trying to hold it together. I am happy that it was an early game cause I had my sunglasses on so at least everyone couldn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. I needed to keep the terror and panic I was feeling to myself the best I could. I had all the kids come down to my row to sit with me, otherwise I was alone. I have never watched a game live without my husband by my side.
Security was amazing. The supervisor came over and stood in our corner since he had a radio so he could let me know what was going on. He asked if I needed anything and said if I did to let him know. Eventually the normal security guy came back and he was great. He kept asking me questions, if everything was ok, and just talking to me. It was helping keeping my mind off the worst. When I had time to think all I could think about was what could happen.
The worst thought that kept creeping in was that Jack was going to die. That the last time I was going to hold my baby was going to be while he had been screaming because I hadn’t been paying enough attention to him. The next on the list of horrible thoughts running through my head was that he was not going to be him any more. Brain injuries are harder on babies. Yes, their brains are growing neurons like crazy and a baby’s brain grows the most it ever will in the first 5 years – but damage to the brain in that time cause be devastating because adults can re-learn skills and baby never learned it in the first place.
The image is burned into my head of him upside down on the cement. There was a smack when it happened and I thought that maybe it was my phone falling to the ground but I decided that it was the noise Jack’s head made when it hit the ground. Last year at a game in April a player on the field broke his leg. People said they could hear the snap of his bones as it broke. I was too far away but I imagine that it sounded exactly the same.
I had very little info as to what was going on. My husband was texting me and it was about 20 minutes before he texted me to tell me the ambulance had arrived. I had assumed they would have already been at the hospital at that point- not just getting ready to leave the stadium.
On one hand everything was moving very very slowly. On the other hand the game itself seemed to be going so fast. Its like I wasn’t moving but the world around me was going faster than ever. I thought about leaving early but my husband had told me to stay there. To try to relax and watch the game. I knew that waiting at the game was better than waiting at the hospital. Plus I wasn’t really sure about my ability to drive safely any sooner. I am thankful for my friend Molly; I texted her to tell her what happened and she texted back and forth with me for the next 90 minutes helping me keep some peace of mind.
Once the game was over we eventually left after waiting to talk to some friends. I am thankful for my soccer family for being there . If I hadn’t have waited til the end of the game then Angel would not have been able to offer for my kids to go hang out at her house and she would feed them dinner and then I wouldn’t have to drag them all to the hospital. My kids were super happy about that too since 2 of them have had their own hospital stays and aren’t really keen on being in one if they don’t have to be. I was also able to follow her out of the stadium which was great because I have never driven to or from the stadium and having to actually think about how to get out of there was too much. “Follow me” worked much better. This is what friends do. My soccer family is to me what many people’s church family are to them.
When I got to the hospital, Jack was on the bed with my husband. He didn’t look right. His eyes were a little open but he was sleeping. I took my 3 year old to the bathroom. When I came back Jack was awake and I held him. He looked at me and wanted his mama. He was ok. I had been told that already but I wasn’t going to believe that until I saw him myself. I burst into tears. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I hugged my baby and my husband for a few minutes.
We stayed at the hospital for a few more hours for observation. Changed a diaper. Got Jack some juice (he drank 2 boxes). Kinda watched a movie. Played some soccer with his new Silver Champions Ball with the signatures of the entire team on it (kindly given to my son before he left the stadium in the ambulance). He played with his sister. As time went on he was more and more like Jack.
When we were being discharged the doctor assured me that if he hadn’t shown any additional signs of distress in the last 4 hours that he would be fine because if there was serious damage, like a bleed, they would know because there is no wary for the body to hide those symptoms for 4 hours.
We picked up the big kids and drove our 2 hours home. I rolled into bed at midnight and slept straight until Jack woke up at 7am (the hour previously known as 6am).
He has been playing all morning. Everyone else is asleep still. Jack is in a good mood. I can’t stop looking at him. While I write this I have been crying off and on just thinking about what could have happened even though it didn’t. I consider myself lucky. I consider Jack lucky. He’s off to an early start of concussions like his daddy and giving me heart attacks.
We are going to carry on with our lives like normally and I’ll hug all my babies a bit more.
Next game though, he won’t be standing on the bench.