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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: In an extraordinary moment, sometimes all we can do is pray

Sept. 29, 2022 Updated Sun., Oct. 2, 2022 at 2:46 p.m.

The game last week started out like any other. Skinny little seventh-graders, their helmets and shoulder pads looking like they were about to topple them over, did warm-up exercises on either side of the field. Parents sat and stood along the sidelines, chatting and shielding their eyes from the late-September sun. Emmett and Hyrum, my two youngest sons, lolled about in the uncharacteristically high heat, already bored as they waited impatiently to see their big brother Henry play in his second football game.

Finally, the kickoff. Boys scrambled this way and that, and one managed to grab the ball and make a break down the field. A mass of boys converged on him and then went down in a tackle. All of them jumped up quickly and brushed themselves off in preparation for the next play.

All but one. On the far side of the field, a player was down, apparently injured as part of that giant tackle. Injury is not uncommon in youth football, at least in my experience. Twisted ankles, pulled muscles, bruises and scrapes – it seems like every game has at least one or two injuries to attend to, usually minor but sometimes more serious. But still – seeing an injured player on the field doesn’t immediately set off any alarm bells.

But this one was different. A few minutes went by, and the group of coaches and other adults surrounding the injured player started to grow. A man jogged across the field toward the group, and I noticed a couple of women – clearly relatives of the injured player – hovering anxiously nearby.

And then the unthinkable: Someone started performing CPR. Everything suddenly became very real.

“Call an ambulance!” someone shouted. Instantly, several people pulled out their phones and dialed 911.

Another person tending to the player shouted for someone to get the AED (automated external defibrillator) from inside the school. Numerous people sprinted toward the gym doors.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Was this boy going to die right before our eyes? Emmett and Hyrum came over to me, asking what was going on. I dropped to my knees so I could talk to them and hold them close, knowing that everything that could be done for the boy was being done. There was nothing left for the rest of us to do but pray.

Already on my knees, I bowed my head and pleaded for the boy’s life. I know I wasn’t the only one; behind me, I heard a latecomer walk up and murmur to her friend, “What is going on? There’s people praying.” In that moment, I’m certain that many heads were bowed, and many prayers were offered in his behalf.

Within a few minutes, the wail of fire trucks, police cars and an ambulance could be heard, and we pointed and yelled which way they should go. Paramedics ran onto the field and did what they do best: run into an unknown situation and help any way they can.

My boys looked over at me, worried.

“Will he be OK?” they asked. I honestly didn’t know. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to remember gentle TV personality Mr. Rogers’ advice for when scary things happen: Look for the helpers.

“Look at all those people over there who are helping him,” I said, pointing at the group across the field. “All of them are trained to know just what to do, and they are doing all the right things to help him get better.”

We stood in relative silence as we watched the paramedics work, looking for any sign that the situation was under control and the boy was OK. And then the moment we’d been waiting for: He was loaded onto a stretcher, and as they started wheeling him across the field toward the ambulance, his outstretched hand gave us a thumbs up. Everyone collectively exhaled.

The player spent the night in the hospital and is expected to fully recover, and I’m thankful for that. But I’m also thankful for the reminder that when things get scary, we should look for the helpers and look for God. We will always find both.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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