This is a difficult blog to write. You may remember me blogging about football and the passion my son has for the sport. I have also written about those frightening hits in football that everyone hears.
My son was involved in one of those frightening hits during football camp. It was the kind of hit that causes the coaches on both sides of the line to feel their stomachs lurch and send them all running onto the field even before the players have climbed back to their feet.
But my son didn’t get back on his feet.
He lay on the field, his limbs convulsing spontaneously—the sign of severe spinal trauma. Though he remained conscious, he was unable to feel anything below his neck. He later told me it was the most frightening two or three minutes he has ever experienced.
When feeling did return to his limbs he knew one of his coaches was kneeling beside him, tightly holding his hand. “Mom, Coach Bryan never let go of my hand the rest of the time,” he said. "He stayed right there with me the whole time."
And they took time with him.
Finally, after taking all the precautions--including immobilizing his neck--the trainers and emergency staff decided he had experienced a severe back spasm. It was a hot day and my son has had leg cramps before. They iced his back and my son asked to go back into the game. He pestered. He said he was fine, just a bit sore. Reluctant, the coaches finally agreed.
My son finished that game as their running back and defensive end. An hour later he played, both ways, for a second full game.
In his positions he was a constant target. Each tackle, he told me, brought him excruciating pain. Even his head hurt with every step.
In one touchdown run, pain kept him from diving over the goal line and he was brought down one yard short. At any other time he would have made those final three feet but he told me later “it hurt too much Mom. I couldn’t do it.” He felt bad, genuinely hurt, that he'd let his teammates down.
No one knew he was playing with his back broken in two places.
When I picked up my son after the camp I knew instantly something was wrong. I could see it in his eyes. They were a different color.
We took him into the doctor and discovered the broken vertebrae and the dislocated neck.
The doctor told him he was lucky. He could have been paralyzed at any time. He was amazed my son had kept playing--even more amazed he had gotten up and walked away from each subsequent tackle.
Later, a back specialist confirmed what the first doctor told us. Then he said, “you need to realize how serious this injury is. If anything had been even a fraction of an inch different, you’d be in a wheelchair right now and you’d be there for the rest of your life.”
My son--who is so passionate about the game that he played football for two hours with a broken back--wept uncontrollably...not because of the possibilities but because of the reality. His football career was over. And I wept right along with him. There is deep, deep pain in seeing something taken from your child that means so much to him!
At some point, when the doctors left us alone, I told him, "Even though you don't feel like this is a blessing right now, you need to realize that the Lord truly protected you during that accident and has blessed you in every single step you've taken since."
Then I made a call to my husband who was out of town. He, too, was devasated--made worse by the distance and his inability to get back to us.
Though he couldn’t be there that night, he fulfilled his role as husband and father perfectly. He called a close friend and asked him to give our son a priesthood blessing that night.
The friend did--changing his schedule to help us through our crisis.
The blessing was the most amazing experience I and my son have ever had. Promises were made that astounded all of us, even our friend. The Spirit was tremendously strong...and with it came understanding and courage to move forward. And hope for my son's future.
Tonight my son is going to his team’s preseason scrimmage game. He will be on the sidelines, encouraging his teammates while wearing a back brace. But he will be standing and walking that sideline, something the doctors say is a miracle.
Because of the gift of the priesthood, we know that many more miracles are still ahead of him. I am anxious to see the 'other' miracles my son will experience in his life.
<--My son breaking tackles and heading for the goal line. His determination on the field follows him off the field, too.
Watching from the sidelines. He was never content to sit there long and, even with a broken back, he still isn't content to sit there. He now goes to every practice and helps with the coaching. His teammates have commented how much they appreciate having him there with them. -->
<-- Ready to face whatever is coming. Though his senior year dreams have suddenly changed, he's still ready to face whatever is coming.