“Yo, hindi mo pa nga yan anak ah.”
That was what my friend Ilka told me when I told her and Cort what happened to me the other day. It roughly translates to “That’s not even your son yet.” My translation skills from Filipino to English are not that good but hopefully me writing this with my heart will sound better.
I rarely write something about myself in detail like a “Dear Diary” type of rambling but I guess this experience deserves to be written in some form of preciseness.
It was supposed to be a team building exercises: Divide the kids into two groups, let them play basketball, and just basically have fun. It was simple. Well, it was supposed to be simple.
When the basketball game was about to finish, the unthinkable happened. One of my students jumped in the air for a rebound and landed awkwardly on the floor. Shit.
He was screaming in pain holding on to his left knee. Think of Saving Private Ryan or a scene from HBO’s The Pacific when someone gets shot in the leg. Man it was bad. Everything stopped at that point but fortunately my other students were quick to react. Two of them went to get ice and check if the school’s infirmary was still open. At first I thought it was just a mild sprain or something – you know, the kind of injury when you step on someone’s foot unintentionally therefore making you land awkwardly. But then he couldn’t move his knee at all. This was different.
My student explained that he actually heard something when he landed, a “locking sound” was what he said. He had a similar injury on his right knee a year ago so he knew what kind of pain he was in.
To cut the long story short, the medical team of the security guards rushed into the scene carrying a stretcher and a splint for the leg. After a few calls to the brother and parents, we were off to the hospital.
What struck me as we were heading for the ambulance was a feeling of guilt. I was the one who made them play basketball. We shouldn’t have played today! We should have stuck to our normal training routine! Damn it!
I told my concerns to the other coach who arrived just as we were transferring him into the ambulance. He said that it wasn’t my fault and that it would have happened in some weird way regardless of what we did. I guess he was right. They could have played basketball before I even arrived that day.
Just as I was feeling better that feeling of guilt came to me again as we were inside the ambulance. With the sirens blaring, the fast drive of the car, the dim lights inside, just everything inside the damn thing made me think! I basically told myself “shit just got real.” Along with my student was his older brother and myself. Things were kind of put into perspective when my student said “It’s my first time to ride in an ambulance. Cool!” We all laughed. It was my first time too.
At the emergency room, we waited for their dad to arrive. A few doctors and nurses passed by and told the procedures that were going to happen. Diagnosis by a surgeon, xray, MRI, and all that stuff. When he told the doctors how old he was it kind of threw me off guard. He says “I’m 15. I’m an incoming junior at the high school.” I don’t know why. I mean I know I’m handling high school students but I guess once I finally heard their age, it was a surreal feeing. Man, these really are kids.
When his dad finally arrived, I didn’t know what to expect. There was a solemn moment when he just looked at his son on the hospital bed. They’re a family with a lot of brothers and sisters and this wasn’t the first time someone was hospitalized but still, there was a reserved quiet moment only a parent could understand. I can only imagine what he’s going through.
After the last check up by the doctor, the dad went to me and said, “I can take over from here. Thank you for looking after my son. Buti nandun ka. (Good thing you were there).”
At that point there was a sense of relief once I heard those words. It wasn’t the fact that what I did was appreciated but more to the fact that he wasn’t mad or shocked or whatever negative emotion there could be.
I relayed the entire story to my friends right after because I had to talk this through. We analyzed that… things just happen without our control. I couldn’t have known what would happen and I was fortunate enough to be there supervising them. As Ilka said, just imagine If it was your own son. I guess in the end, it wasn’t guilt that consumed me, but instead, it was an overwhelming sense of responsibility.
I tried to think back whether or not there was a similar experience in my young life. No classmate, no officemate, and no friend comes close. Primarily because this was with an extremely younger person. In a way, these kids look up to me. It’s like I’m in a fine line between a teacher, older brother, and a friend. And I love the fact that I can walk around these lines.
In many ways, these are my kids. And yes, even though they are teenagers, they are still kids. This was a growing experience for me as I try to lead this group of people.
I’m looking forward show more of my overwhelming sense of responsibility.