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Published: August 22nd 2007
I considered whether or not t post this entry. It includes some difficult details, and was one of the more troubling moments of my time here in Kaunas.
I had bought a gas can and filled it with gas on Friday afternoon, and headed to Kaunas stadium to mow the grass. I was mowing, had just finished the infield and was beginning on the outfield when two kids came up to me and started to talk to me in Lithuanian. I knew they wanted something from me but I could not understand what. They were both about 13 years old, one was smoking a cigarette. I finally understood that they wanted me to come with them cause their friend was drunk, passed out on the grass somewhere. They needed to carry him but he was too heavy. So I went with them.
It was a sad site. We found the kid lying on the ground. He was breathing, but not moving. He did not respond much to us talking to him or shaking him.
We tried to pick him up. He didn’t move, he felt like a sack of potatoes.
When we got him in our arms he began to throw up everywhere, on my shirt, shoes, on the other kids helping me carry him. It was not good.
I went to get my car and drive it closer to where the boy was, because he was too heavy to carry. I made the decision that the best thing to do was to get the child to his parents as fast as I could.
By this time there was a third child, a little girl, who had joined the group. They climbed in the back and the sick kid sat in front. At this point he was making noises, and more awake (which was reassuring, because it meant he was conscious). He was throwing up on himself and in my car. Their apartment was about a half a kilometer away. We pulled into the parking lot and the three younger kids spotted the other kid’s sister. As we were driving and I was listening to the kids I began to understand that this kid was not their close friend, but simply a friend from school, a classmate. The two boys who had asked for my help were just walking through this big abandoned field and came across the third boy lying on the ground (what incredible luck that they found him) and that he had been drinking with some other friends.
We told the boy’s sister what was going on and at first she thought we were joking. She was laughing, her friends were laughing, too. I can imagine she must have been very confused and not knowing what to think—here I was shirtless and fumbling in my poor Lithuanian trying to explain to her that her 11-year-old little brother was passed out drunk in my car. Finally she walked over to the car and saw her brother, and understood what had happened. She then began apologizing profusely for not taking us seriously as she began dialing her mother on her cell.
Shortly thereafter her mom came down the stairs. The whole thing was confusing, they were confused, I was confused, the mom was scared. She dragged her son out of the car and someone else helped carry the boy inside and up the stairs. As suddenly as it began, it was all over. The girls thanked me. Before I could say anything the two boys who had found the third one were gone. And I drove back to the stadium with a vomited car, not knowing what to do next. “Did that just happen?” I asked myself.
In the moment when I was with this sick child I truly didn’t know what to do. Do I call for an ambulance?? I don't even know who this kid’s parents are or how to contact them. Or do I just get him to his house as quick as possible? That is what I decided to do. In the moment I didn’t even know what the number to call for an emergency was (though I now know that if you dial 911 it will connect to emergency services).
I even feel slightly awkward writing about this experience on my blog—but I decided I would share it. It was a real experience, and one that has stayed with me in the days since. And it is weird to think that I will most likely never see that boy again.
Everyday at practice there are always a dozen or so kids hanging around the stadium—riding their bikes, sitting in the stands talking with friends, or just walking around playing and exploring. It’s the same in the neighborhoods—after school and in the summers the kids’ playgrounds are the yards and parking lots near where they live. It feels to me like Kaunas would be a tough place to grow up, a place where peer influence from other kids in the neighborhood is extremely strong and always present.
Yesterday at practice I found myself looking more closely at the faces of the kids hanging around the stadium to see if I recognized any of them as the children from that Friday afternoon. I imagine I’ll pay closer attention to those kids from now on.
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