Two hours outside of Nashville, I received the call from the school nurse: My son, Levi, was playing on the playground and got a rock stuck in his ear. It was my children’s weekend visit with their father, so I’d planned this trip with girlfriends and had looked forward to it for some time. Now it seemed my getaway would be clouded by this unfortunate development.
Initially I was told that the rock went in when he fell on the gravel, but a later conversation with Levi revealed that his imaginary friend had actually inserted it. As much as I didn’t like that explanation, I hated being away when my child needed me. Never mind the fact that he’d brought the circumstances on himself; he was frightened.
To ease my concern, the nurse assured me that the rock was still at the surface and visible. A trip to nearby Children’s Hospital should rectify the situation quickly and painlessly. But when Levi’s father took him to the ER, they weren’t able to remove the rock. It was now lodged deep in Levi’s ear, and when he called me he was in pain and sobbing. Doing my best to console him while keeping my own tears in check, I had my hosts and travel companions crying by the time I hung up.
Levi was sent home with eardrops and instructions to see an ENT the following week. The first appointment we could get, unfortunately, was on the day the Bengals were at my children’s school. Poor Levi. First the rock, and now he would miss out on this, too.
At the hospital the doctor attempted to remove the rock, but because he’d been traumatized in the ER, Levi would have no part of it. He went into melt down mode. Consequently, the rock would have to be removed surgically. As Levi nearly hyperventilated, I explained his two options: Endure the discomfort of having the rock removed that day or come back and be put to sleep with a shot that would hurt as much as taking the rock out itself. Levi’s priceless response: “Is there a third option?”
Since there wasn’t, Levi chose option B and the doctor left the room to schedule the procedure. Holding Levi on my lap, I rubbed his back and read him a story. Once he was calm, I asked if he was sure about his choice and assured him it was ok whichever way he decided. Sucking in a deep breath, he exhaled and told me, “I’ll be brave. I’ll do the first option.”
With two nurses and me holding him down, the doctor got in position. “I want to see the instrument,” Levi demanded at the last minute. His eyes grew wide and terrified when he saw the long hook. “I change my mind! I change my mind!” he screamed. “No buddy, we’re not changing our mind,” the doc said firmly as he inserted the instrument and deftly removed the rock with Levi yelling, “I’m brave! I’m brave!” all the while.
And he was. Prior to this incident, I didn’t really approve of the phrase “man up,” but that’s just what my son did that day. He was absolutely terrified, but he did the courageous, hard thing.
Back at school, one of the Bengals thought Levi was pretty brave, too. When he heard about the ordeal, he posed with him for this shot. Levi may have missed out on the assembly, but he’ll have this picture with Leon Hall – and the rock – to remind him of the day he displayed a truly brave heart.