What's your worst fear?
I have a few. Spiders, for instance. I hate spiders. Not a fan of snakes, either.
But the fear I experienced Monday night is the greatest I can recall: fear because a child was in danger.
My grandsons are playing youth football in a league based in the small community of Ladonia, just outside Phenix City, Alabama, and practice has started. And, at last night's practice, one of my grandsons was hurt. And, for a bit, I didn't know how bad. All I knew was that they were calling for an ambulance. And that I was experiencing fear.
Here's how it went down. During practice, one of the drills was for two players to lie on their backs, head to head, several yards apart. On the whistle, they jumped up and ran towards each other, one carrying a football, the other trying to tackle the ball carrier.
My grandson was on the ground, on the left as I was watching. At the whistle, he jumped up and began his part of the drill. He ran towards my right, while the other player ran towards my left, attempting to tackle my grandson.
They met and my grandson came out ahead on the battle. He drove the tackler back and to the ground, but came down too, past the player.
I saw the coach appear to reach down to pat him on the head, giving him a "good job" or "attaboy." But he suddenly squatted next to my grandson, who wasn't getting up. He seemed to do a quick check, then yelled to the sidelines, "Call the ambulance."
I was filming this on my camera phone, and realized what was said. My grandson needed an ambulance.
Every horrible thought went through my mind. I recalled an indoor football player dying after being hit on a play just a few years ago. And I'm scared.
Many rushed out to the field, but I took a breath, stopped my camera, hit the dialer, and called 911.
As scared as I was, I had to shove the fear aside so I could give the Russell County Emergency Services operator good information. I was able to tell her that a youth football coach was yelling for an ambulance for one of his players. I did not know the type or extent of the injury, just that a coach said an ambulance was needed.
I told her where the field was, and gave a landmark. She confirmed where we were, and requested that someone be at the road to direct them. I confirmed that I was heading to the road immediately.
The closest emergency personnel were at the Ladonia Fire Department. It's a minute away. They arrived as I ran through the parking lot, waving them towards the field with the injury.
As they came in, they saw where the emergency was, quickly assessed the best way to get there, and made their way around the parked cars, down the hill, across the ditch, over the fence, and to the field. And, yes, that was the quickest way.
All this time, I didn't know how bad the injury was. But I couldn't think about that, because if I did, I didn't know if I could function. I was worried that it was life-threatening, because of how quickly he called for an ambulance.
As it turned out, my grandson had broken bones in his lower right arm. Though not a compound fracture, it was such that it was immediately evident that there was a break. So, the coach immediately called for an ambulance.
After everything was done -- the EMTs arriving and applying a splint, the ambulance transporting him to the hospital, us following in the car, waiting around the hospital for over an hour, driving him home -- I was finally able to let go.
By then, the reason for the fear -- the unknown -- was gone. But that fear had bottled up. When I finally got back to the house, I had to sit alone in the car for a few minutes just to let it out so I could recover.
When a child is injured, it's a helpless feeling. When you don't know how bad the injury is, that unknown causes one of the worst fears in the world.
I never want to experience that fear again.