Are you alright?

May 11, 2017
by Charles Chester
CEO and Founder of Black Tree Ranch

Are you alright?

So, here’s a crazy story.  When both of my boys were playing football in high school, one a quarterback and the other a free safety, a conundrum presented itself quite unexpectedly.  They each had games in different cities on the same night.  They were both at 7:00.  So, being a good football dad, I thought, “I got this.  I’ll watch the first half of one game and then go watch the second half of the other game.”  Easy enough, right?

I watched the first half of my younger son’s game.  It was amazing.  His team was up by 14 points.  He’d thrown three touchdown passes.  Incredible.  But, as promised, I had to leave to go watch my other son’s game.  It was a typical Texas football night.

As I was driving to the other game, I got the call.  My younger son had suffered a severe concussion.  He’d passed out on the field.  I turned around and probably drove too fast to get to him.  When I got to the field, I was told he needed to go to Dell Children’s Hospital right away.  He was going to need a CAT scan.  So, we went.  Scary stuff.

While my younger son was getting his CAT scan, the othercall came in.  My older son was downon the field.  Back injury.  Not moving.  Then he got up.  Then he was on a stretcher.  All this from the mother of one of his team mates.  What was I supposed to do?  I couldn’t just leave my younger son at the hospital.  When I asked the coach to put my older son on the phone, I asked him the simple question.  The same question everyone asks in emergency situations.  I asked, “Are you alright?”  He just laughed a little and said something like, “Yeah, dad, I’ll be fine.  Just got my back bunched up a bit.”  Understand that the kid was five foot nothing and weighed about 140 pounds soaking wet.

After some banter about whether I should go get my older son, his trainer assured me that he would be ok and that he’d be fine to drive home later that night.  That was good news because we were all going a bit crazy at this point.  Concussions are serious business.  As are back injuries.

Long story made extremely short, both boys came out of it just fine.  My younger son’s concussion healed, but he never played football again.  His decision.  We don’t regret it one bit.  My family’s safety and wellbeing are my life.  My older boy’s back healed and he finished out his high school football career without ever missing a practice or a game.

These are what we call “self-correcting errors.”  If you don’t want to get hurt, then don’t play football, right?  After all, my boys and I are men of average height and build.  Probably not meant to be mixing it up with 6’5” 300 pound linebackers.  We just love the game.

Given the nature of my business and my background, a few days later I couldn’t help but think, “What if it had been something different?”  What if the nature of the calls….. the emergency at hand…. the issue that caused so much panic had been an act of malice?  An active shooter?  An explosion? A riot?  What if it was a natural disaster?  Tornadoes come to mind down here in Texas.  How would the call have been different?  What would be the answer to the question, “Are you alright?”

Concussions and back injuries suffered during a high school football game can be dealt with on our terms.  We have time to process the situation.  We can talk to doctors, trainers and coaches and develop a reasonable response.

What happens when it’s totally beyond our control and our loved one is not the only one hurt?  Mass carnage.  The type of thing that changes lives in a nanosecond.  I could go on and on about the senseless violence and tragedy that plagues our youth these days.  Or any age group.  And any gender, race, ethnicity, religion…..the list goes on.  But I really don’t have to, do I?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are well aware of the danger we face every day while we’re just going about our business.

When it happens, a simple question becomes complicated.  “Are you alright?”  Well…. are you?