There are certain things you expect to see when you attend a fall Little League game. Parents shouting in support of their young stars, boys running around having fun, base hits, errors… okay, lots of errors. But the one thing you don’t expect to see is another parent sitting next to you suddenly in a life and death crisis. But that is exactly what happened to me at my son’s first baseball game of the fall season.
This particular night was the first cold night we’d had for several months. Of course, it’s opening night, why wouldn’t it be cold? As we sat in the stands, bundled against the elements, I struck up a conversation with the parents sitting next to me. We talked about our boys, chuckled at some of the plays we witnessed, and discussed the differences between Spring Little League and Fall Little League. The one thing I didn’t do that I normally would, is introduce myself to my newfound friends.
After a few minutes of light rain and a cool breeze, my wife decided to head to the car to watch from warmer confines. I stayed in the stands, watching the game and talking more with my new friends. At one point, as I turned to say something, I noticed the wife looking over my shoulder and behind me.
I turned to see her husband standing behind the stands, back to us, hands on his knees. It looked to me like he had a bloody nose, as he leaned forward and I saw what looked to be drops of blood hitting the dirt at his feet.
His wife asked, “Do you need to go to the hospital?” At which point I realized I didn’t know the full story. I looked at her and asked if he was going to be okay. She said, “I don’t think so. He just had surgery this week.”
She stepped down from the bleachers and walked to him, placing her hand on his back and speaking softly into his ear. I watched anxiously, waiting to see any sign of whether he was going to be okay. In all honesty, I also wondered to myself whether I really wanted to get involved, not knowing the severity of what was happening or whether I was even equipped to help.
As he turned toward me, I realized there was something terribly wrong. Blood was rushing from his mouth, and it looked like he was having a hard time breathing. His wife turned to a man standing nearby, asking if he would help her get him to their car. I realized that was not a good idea, and he wouldn’t make it that far based on what I was witnessing.
I jumped off the bleachers, looked at the other man and told him to call 911. “He’s not going to make it to the car,” I said. “He needs help right now.”
“A man has no more character than he can command in a time of crisis.”
I went to him and braced under his arms, leading him to another set of bleachers not being used. I held him up, positioning him over a large garbage can, and he continued to lose what looked to be massive amounts of blood from his mouth. As I held him up, I knew that I couldn’t let him fall or he would choke to death on his own blood. Then I noticed the line of staples from just under his left ear, down to about mid-throat. I found out later that he had just had surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes, as well as his tonsils. What had happened is the scab inside his throat blew out, and that area is so vascular, that the blood was literally flowing from his throat and mouth. And I had no idea how to stop it.
At that moment, his son, who had been playing baseball, came over to see his dad. He was crying and calling out to him. I told his mother to keep him and the other boys back from the scene. This was not something they should witness.
She came over to us, telling him 911 had been called. He seemed to wave her off as though he was telling her he was going to be okay. She said, “You’re a critical care nurse! What would you do?”
I was so far out of my element at this point, all I could think to do was talk to him, and help keep him as calm as possible. With every gasp, he was losing more blood, his hands and body shaking, his heart beating at a frantic pace – I could feel it as I held my hand on his back. I continued to speak calmly, “Help is on the way. Stay with me. I’m right here, and I’m not going to let you fall.” Inside I was anything but calm. I was scared to death that this poor man was going to bleed out right there in my arms. I felt so helpless.
“You can’t relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle.”
When the first responders from the Fire Department arrived after what seemed like hours – it was probably 10 minutes or so – I was feeling incredibly relieved. “They’re here,” I told him. As they approached, I stepped back, giving way to the experts.
Suddenly everything went white and I couldn’t hear anything going on around me. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears. I knew I was going to pass out. I braced myself against the bleachers, struggling to gain composure. I didn’t want to become part of the problem! That poor man needed their help, and I didn’t want to distract any of their attention from him.
I was able to regain my bearings, and by that time the ball game was over and the boys were standing around watching the scene. I said something unintelligible to the wife, and took my son Trevor to the car. Once inside, I sat there and my emotions overwhelmed me. I shook and cried and had no idea if I had done the right thing. Was he going to be okay? Why didn’t I do more?
Fast forward two days to the boys’ next practice. I was anxious as I drove Trevor to the fields. I didn’t know the names of the people I had helped, and had no idea if he was okay. As we parked the car and walked to the field, I saw something that made my heart stop. Was it really them?
There, standing on the field talking with the coach, was the couple from two nights before. They turned and saw me, and the man walked over and we embraced. “I am so happy to see you!” I said as I hugged him tightly. He thanked me for what I did the other night, telling me he had no idea who was helping him, but that my voice helped him maintain whatever composure he had, and remain calm enough to not lose control of his accelerating heart rate.
I won’t tell you that I did anything heroic. Not even sure it was the right thing to do at the time. What I can tell you is that I did the only thing I could. I did my best to help another human being in trouble. Thank God, all worked out, and he is recovering. Oh, and their names are Dave and Janelle. And we talk at every game!
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work