Jill Stahl Tyler: Education Matters | The power of the unit
It is right about noon, and when my cell phone rings, the conversation is not at all one I was expecting.
"I just wanted you to know that we are up in Dartmouth, the neurological intensive care unit," she states, very matter-of-factly. "They are doing an MRI next. They are trying to figure out what's going on.
"And he's paralyzed on one side, can't move anything..."
At first, I am so stunned I can't even formulate words. Paralyzed? This 18-year-old who is ranked for his defensive long pole skills in lacrosse? The one who always makes me cheer as he denies player after player when they dare to come near his goal? The same boy I've watched grow to 6'4", who scarfs down any and all food — all the time? The one who is the very picture of robust health enjoyed by the young?
Suddenly, I have a million questions. I start in on them, one by one. When? How? What caused this?
My friend starts to answering, stumbling a bit as she tries to explain.
My brain kicks in, and I ask her the most important question: "Are you alone up there?"
As she answers "yes," I'm already on my feet, turning off monitors and lights, preparing to leave. "You can't be alone," I state unequivocally. "No one should be alone when their son is in this situation."
I call my son. He, too, is shocked. "I talked to him just last night, and he sounded fine." I quickly run through the few details I have clear: a sinus infection that has apparently gone into his brain ... the incredible headaches ... the sudden paralysis ...
My son quickly gets out of work, explaining the situation to a boss who urges him to "go now." His friend, his lacrosse buddy of six years, needs him. There is no question. He must be there.
I call another lacrosse mom. Her son, too, played with this young man, and she reaches him between his college classes. He responds the same way: he is on his way south shortly, and will meet us at the hospital.
My friend's phone rings constantly. One call is from his university lacrosse coach, who can barely pull together coherent questions but insists that we pass along that the "whole team is pulling for him." Another is the traveling team organizer, who insists he will be up tomorrow. "And call me, any time, day or night. I mean it." The word is out to the team, he says.
Hours later, another lacrosse mom insists she is coming up with her sons. "I can't keep them away," she says. The two moms spend the night in the waiting room, stretched out in recliners.
The next day brings a visitor my friend does not even recognize — until he says his son's name. Mystery solved: another teammate, this one lives 10 minutes away from the hospital. "Any time you want, our house is yours," he says. "Any time."
Not even 24 hours after brain surgery, the newly shaven patient is being regaled by songs and stories from two more players. They are joined by their sister, mother and brother — who have traveled from the north end of the state.
The visitors keep coming, so much so that the hospital staff begin to call him "the popular one." His university teammates send a card, hand-delivered by his coach and two players who made the eight-hour round-trip drive.
His mother is inundated with calls, texts and emails. We start a website with updates.
I think back to when I first started going to the traveling team games. This team pulls from at least four states. You never know who might sign up to play on any given day. I watched to see who cheered when we scored a goal — just to know which parents were from my kid's team. To make it worse for me, I had to go back and forth between two sons' games — and felt like I knew almost no one in either case.
That all changed — largely due to the incredible friendliness of this particular mom-friend. She talked with every one, remembered every one. Soon there was food organization for the team. Next came hotel and camping coordination, nightly family bonfires in Lake Placid, deep conversations between the parents, even off-season get-togethers before tournaments.
Now, in this hour of absolute need by one of our own, the team was mobilized in every sense. Prayers, positive thoughts, cards, calls, social media reach-outs, visits. An offer of housing during rehab therapy. Rides to follow-up appointments. Special gatherings, and heartfelt send offs as this young man has recuperated enough to head back to college, right on time.
The kids have said it often: "It's the POWER OF THE UNIT."
They are right — and this time, we all joined into that unique gift.
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three: one at college, one in the work force, and one a freshman at the high school. Her family is also host to "Spanish daughter number three" this year. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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