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The Collision: A Header that Knocked Me Out and Woke Me Up
“Here we go boys this is the biggest game of the year,” I yelled, trying to get the team pumped up and excited. This was the game that I’ll never forget.
My team was playing a huge game which could put our team in second place. It was cold with rain flooding the turf at the local high school. My team was playing Shelton. When we play Shelton, my job is to guard their left mid-fielder who scores all of their goals. He is big and fast, and he can kick the ball 45 yards right into the back of the net. I had been preparing to face this kid for weeks. At practices I do different drills to prepare and I love knowing that I am ready for dominating my opponent. Practicing, competing, and having fun are things I love to do.
During the first half, the big kid that I guarded was quiet. I was watching him like a falcon trying to snatch its prey. He touched the ball only about three different times. The score at half time was 0-0. Our coach was pleased with the defense. “That’s the way to stop them, guys”. However, he wasn’t as pleased with the offense for not scoring. “We have all of these opportunities. Why can’t we finish them off?” Tony’s tone was very demanding. We weren’t scoring as much while I was playing defense because I am a big part of the offense.
We came on the field pumped up and excited. In the first ten minutes we came out firing and we were dominating. The big kid I was guarding complained about a cramp, but it seemed like he really just didn’t want to play because he wasn’t getting the ball at all. When he came off the field, my coach, Tony, put me up at forward hoping to get the offense going. Alex was put in to defend. We call him “el toro” because he is like a bull, not afraid of anybody and able to put people through the turf,
In the first three minutes when I was playing forward, I stole the ball from the defender and passed it to our other forward, Mike, who shot it in the top left corner of the goal. “Yeah, Mike!” I yelled. “Way to go,” everybody else yelled with excitement. Two minutes later I was tackled to the ground by their angered sweeper. I got right back up. We took a free kick which went out of bounds. Their goalie then had a free kick which someone from their team headed out of bounds. The next play someone on my team threw the ball in, somebody volleyed it in the air, and I went up along with Shelton’s right back and got head butted in the face. My green Jets hat flew off and my head smashed onto the turf. My coaches ran onto the field.
I don’t remember at all, but I ended up walking with my coaches who were holding on to me. I was walking tilting sideways like someone who spun around a thousand times. I was struggling to walk and I was holding my face. I woke up on the bench asking repeatedly what happened. Everybody on the bench kept answering, getting annoyed, “You got hit in the face.” My face was numb, my lip was bleeding, and I was shivering from the frozen rain. I just wanted to go back to reality. I just wanted the pain to go away. I kept asking “What happened,” not knowing I had asked it more than five times. The only time that I remember somebody answering my simple question was my team manager, Scott. He answered in a comforting voice, “What happened was…you went up to head the ball and somebody’s head hit your face Wait, here’s the ambulance right now,” he said quickly.
“What happened here?” one paramedic asked as if this was the twentieth call he had that day. “He got knocked out for a little less than a minute,” Scott answered. The paramedics put me on a stretcher and wheeled me down the track where I tried to give a thumbs up to my team, but I couldn’t give a thumbs up. I was trying, but my thumb wouldn’t move. The paramedics put me in the ambulance and, thinking it was the first time, I asked “What the heck just happened? I thought I was dreaming that we were playing Shelton.” As my mom came in the ambulance, scared and anxious, she told me that I would remember things over time. She was right. I did. The paramedics were men, one young and one old. The older one was wearing a blue hat. They weren’t asking me any questions as I had expected, so I started asking lots of questions. I asked the paramedics things like, “Am I wearing red socks?” “Am I wearing a blue jersey?” I was getting my own questions right. I was passing my own test. The paramedics then asked me when my birthday was. I answered correctly. Then they asked me what the date was. It took me a few seconds, but I slowly said, “October…….16, 17, or 18….around there.” “Pretty good,” the young paramedic said as he placed the oxygen tube in my nose. Later, when they asked me to count down from 100 by sevens, I did surprisingly well.
I knew that this was probably the worst day of my life, but I had to get through it, like it or not. In all of the years I have played sports, I have had a strained ligament in my wrist and a couple of broken toes. They were not a big deal and didn’t affect me that much. This was a tragic injury that I wasn’t expecting and I was pretty scared. All I could think about was if I would be able to play soccer again this season.
Trying to squirm out of the straps from the stretcher, I was forced back on the board. I wanted to escape! The hospital hallway was lined with lots of patients. I heard awful noises coming from everywhere, but I couldn’t tell what I was hearing. That terrible hospital smell seemed to be all around me. The Bridgeport Hospital emergency department hallway is a very strange place to be on a rainy Sunday night. I just wanted to get out of there.
My coaches came in about 15 minutes after I was put in a room to check on me. I could see their puzzled and concerned expressions which told me I was not looking good. They were obviously uncomfortable by my swollen eye, bloody, fat lip, and broken nose, but they still asked me if I was feeling OK. The only thing I was concerned about was what happened in the game. They paused for a second, but then Scott said, “We lost 2-1. Right after you left, the big kid came back in and had two assists. Nobody on the team could handle him.” I was really frustrated laying there hearing the results of the game, wishing that this never happened.
Finally, they discharged me, after x-rays and more questions. When I found out I was leaving, I was relieved that we were getting out of that place. The nurse asked me if I wanted to leave in fashion, but I said “no thanks” to the wheelchair. I wanted to walk under my own power to see if I could do it. With the help of my mom, I was able to walk but my walk was crooked and I tripped over my own feet. Jacket over my face, I huddled low in my dad’s car for the ride home and the shiny street lights couldn’t hurt my eyes.
Some people say I was lucky being able to stay home from school for a week doing nothing but watch TV, listen to my Ipod, and run around outside. But little did they know that I was a couch potato, not allowed to watch TV, listen to an Ipod, read, or run outside. In similar terms, I WASN’T ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING FOR SIX DAYS and anyone that knows me knows that I can survive without the TV, without the iPod, without the books, but I CAN’T SURVIVE WITHOUT RUNNING AROUND OUTSIDE. The whole time I missed school, I was stuck in a dark room, eating, and watching my dog for my mom. No I wasn’t lucky to be missing school. I was lucky because I slowly got better and I was able to run around outside and play again, watch the Yankees play baseball, and read books and magazines. The first day that I was cleared to play sports again, I realized how much fun my life is, how much I enjoy it, and how lucky I am to be able to do what I like to do. This moment was a brush with tragedy that I escaped, and the memory of it makes me grateful for all the things I am able to do.