My kid got hurt playing baseball. It’s a story that began six weeks ago, is going to continue for at least another year, and will potentially impact him for the rest of his life. Thankfully, at nine years old, he doesn’t realize this.
It’s not an unusual injury – a torn meniscus and torn ACL. But it’s unusual for someone of his age. And because of his small size (he’s a scrawny 57 pounds), surgeons will need to repair his ACL with a graft of his iliotibial band – a procedure I’d never even heard of until a week ago.
I’ve learned a lot since we discovered the severity of Michael’s injury.
- As a parent, it’s easier to withstand your own injury, surgery and recovery. I say this from experience – I’ve broken my ankle twice and undergone four surgeries in the last two years. Spent months on crutches. And the last six weeks have been a hundred times more excruciating for me. The worst? Knowing that Michael can’t play sports for a year. That might sound silly, and I’m guessing the doctors who have heard me asking when he will be able to return to sports think that I’m some crazy mom who thinks my kid is now going to miss out on the NBA Draft. That’s not it. Knowing that he can’t throw a football around with his friends after school, won’t be able to play sports at camp this summer, that he can’t play basketball this winter, when he’s waited for three years to try out for a travel team and now will have to sit on the bench for the season and watch the rest of the team, just knowing how much fun he would have had, makes me sadder than I ever would have imagined.
- Generally speaking, people are good. And when I say good, I mean awesome. We’ve had friends, neighbors and acquaintances helping us out, visiting and dropping off goodies and gifts for Michael. People checking in, praying, offering help. Kind people holding doors, moving out of the way (and pushing their oblivious companions out of the way). Unfailingly helpful doctors, nurses and office staff. Like I said, awesome.
- Unfortunately, when people aren’t good, they really suck. And sometimes they mean well, but just can’t figure out what the right thing to do is. A general rule: when someone you know is scheduled for surgery, you shouldn’t call a member of their family to share your own awful experience with that same surgery. I’d think common sense would tell you that, but sometimes, people just want to connect, and that’s how they do it. But think before you say something. And if you’re not sure what to say to someone who’s going through a rough time, just say that you’re not sure what to say. It’s better than disappearing off the grid and not saying anything at all.
- A parent will do just about anything to make their child more comfortable when they’re going through something like this. Michael had unexpected surgery sprung on him at around 11:00 a.m., and wasn’t permitted to eat for the rest of that day. In a show of solidarity, I didn’t eat either. After his surgery, Michael slept in my bed with me for a few nights, and I’m sure he’ll be with me longer after this next, more invasive procedure. I hurt my back carrying him to the bathroom in the middle of the night because he was too tired to get himself there on crutches, and I distracted him with back scratches until pain medication kicked in.
- I have a new found admiration for parents of children with chronic special needs, as well as the siblings of those children. Trying to balance Michael’s temporary increased needs with my own, as well as the day-to-day things that Matthew needs, is just plain impossible. We’ve made plans to spend one-on-one parent time with Matthew, and reassured him that this is temporary. But when Michael is in pain because his medication has worn off or needs help getting around, it’s something I need to take care of at that very moment. It doesn’t matter if Matthew has a question about his homework, wants to talk to me about something that happened that day, or just wants a hug. It’s going to have to wait, and that’s not fair to him. So for those of you who are carrying this burden all day every day, you have my respect. It’s not fair, and it’s not easy.
- Put a kid in a wheelchair, and people are going to stare. It doesn’t bother me, and I don’t think Michael minds, but it’s a weird phenomenon.
Anyway, I know we’ll all get through this. I’m not sure how much of my own sanity will remain at the end, but I guess that’s part of the excitement of the journey.