Not that concussions are intrinsically amusing, especially when they cause a very eager offensive lineman to miss three games out of the short freshman football season…but when life gives you lemons, etc.
So Rusty gets his bell well and truly rung on the football field, and I pack him off to Dr. Slaughter’s office. (Yes, our family doctor’s name really is Dr. Slaughter; but I admire her very much as I think she runs her business at least as much as a ministry as she does a business, and, given where she has chosen to locate and the community she serves, I am happy to have my insurance company pay her very well for my visits in order to offset the number of patients I think she treats without getting paid at all.) My wife, who for nearly a year has been trying unsuccessfully to go see Dr. Slaughter to discuss my chronic heartburn, points out that this would be an excellent time to kill two birds with one stone, or, as she put it, “to eat two grains of rice with one chopstick.” (One of the nice things about being married to a Chinese woman is how different her folk idioms are from those I grew up with. In fact I enjoy her Chinese idioms so much I sometimes make them up for her. Like that last one, for instance…ahem. Moving on.)
So we go see Dr. Slaughter, where Dr. Slaughter rapidly diagnoses a really-and-truly concussion, thanks partly to Rusty’s inability to stand up with eyes closed without falling over, but also to the incoherence of his answers to simple questions (“Who is the Vice-President of the United States?” “Ummm…Barack Obama?” “What month is it right now?” “October.” “Can you count backwards from forty by two for me, please?” “Forty, forty-eight, forty-six…”) I’ll grant you that Rusty is a fifteen-year-old boy who does not always pay close attention to his elders’ words, but he really was not right, and couldn’t even really keep track of the conversation, as he kept losing track of what he or we were saying in mid-sentence.
Before I go any further: this was a couple of weeks ago. He’s better now. And also, so that the next paragraph won’t worry you: the tests are back and I do NOT in fact have cancer.
At any rate, Dr. Slaughter tells Rusty he is not to play sports until further notice, much to his disgust. Then she leaves Rusty sitting in his chair in one corner of the examination room and turns to me. She quizzes me in rather more detail than I expected (I assume because she figures I’m getting old and am bound to have SOMETHING pretty seriously wrong with me at my age), asking me lots of personal and not-very-obviously-pertinent questions, and after about two minutes of not being made very happy by my answers, she stops to concentrate for a second or two, and then says emphatically, “I think we need to have you tested for colon cancer.”
Over in his corner, Rusty suddenly snaps to full and wide-eyed attention: “I have COLON CANCER?!?!?!??”
That was a couple of weeks ago, and Rusty is very tired of being questioned by his teammates about how the concussion is going and when he will be allowed to play again. The original estimate was a week, but he didn’t recover very fast and the C-T scan had something that Dr. Slaughter thought probably wasn’t too big a problem, but given his slow recovery and the fact that he’s been having bad headaches recently, she packed him off to a neurologist for a specialist’s opinion. Then the neurologist ordered up an MRI, but it was another week before the MRI lab had a space ready. By now he had already missed two of his Thursday night games; so he was relieved to find out that he would have his MRI on Wednesday and thus have a chance to be cleared to play on Thursday.
Alas, as we were on the way to the clinic, they called us. It seems the technician was in a car wreck on the way to work, and they had to push Rusty’s MRI back a day. So he missed Game #3 as well, much to his disgust.
But as we were headed back to the high school, I passed on to him a true story about a friend who recently all but knocked himself unconscious in most undignified fashion. It seems my friend had a stomach virus and was hunched over the toilet bowl throwing up. Alas, one spasm was so strenuous that my friend slammed his head into the toilet seat and nearly knocked himself unconscious.
You can imagine how long, and how hysterically, my fifteen-year-old son laughed over THAT one. Then I invited him to imagine what it would have been like if he had gotten his own concussion that way rather than on the field of honorable combat. I was teasing him (speaking in my fluent teenagerese, of course)…
“…imagine if your teammates were like, ‘Dude, why aren’t you playing today?’ And you’re like, ‘Um, I have a concussion.’
“Then they’d be like, ‘Oh, bummer. How did it happen?’ And you’d be like, ‘Um…[long pause] My dad hit me.'”
Because you know there’s no way even the most truthful of ninth-grade boys is going to tell the other guys on the football team, “I was puking and hit my head on the toilet seat and knocked myself out.”