My initiation into the combat arts started all the way back in kindergarten.  There, a boy named Paul who was bigger than any of the rest of us kids was bullying another child.  This wasn’t the first time I had witnessed Paul doing this.  He had been picking on one kid or another since the beginning of the school year.  This day was different for me.  For some reason, I couldn’t stand to watch it anymore.  It was on that day that self-defense became of great interest to me.  Paul and I threw down near a forest green merry-go-round at McKinley Elementary School in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.

At the age of 26, I started studying the martial arts formally and have continued to do so for the last 28 years.  Professional martial arts instruction eventually became my full time career in the summer of 1990.  Additionally I am certified to teach Fear Adrenal Stress Training which is a very intense and effective form of scenario based self-defense.

I have studied techniques for dealing with stress and managing breathing to that end.  I’ve been threatened at gunpoint, I’ve been stabbed and I’ve had to defend myself against multiple attackers on more than one occasion.

With 9 ½ years active duty in the U.S. Air Force, serving overseas in three different countries,  Honorably Discharged with both the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal,  I like to think I’m well prepared to handle what life throws my way.  Heck, I was even a Boy Scout growing up.

Nothing really prepares you for walking into a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and seeing your child lying unconscious in a bed with a ventilator keeping his lungs working.  It’s one of your worst nightmares come to life.  It’s no longer one of those daydreams that creeps into your mind from time to time as a parent of a tragedy that could befall your child and you can just shake yourself out of it and go on with your life.  It’s real.  It’s in your face.  And you can’t wake up from it or walk away.  It’s your kid.  Now what are you going to do?

The sight of Josh this way, with a neck stabilizing brace, numerous tubes inserted into his body and the cables attached to him feeding data to various monitors,  left my stomach queazy, my mind scared and my heart broken.

Even as I write this and I am going back in time in my mind to that day, and I am trying to find the right words to describe what was happening, I realize I am holding my breath again just as I did when I first saw Joshua on that Friday in August of 2005.

Seeing your child in a hospital bed on a ventilator is unsettling to say the least.   I described in another post how I was overwhelmed with emotion the first time holding Josh as a newborn baby.  That post described the joy I felt, the sense of awe and the intense love I was experiencing.  I was once again overwhelmed with emotion in the PICU the day of the accident.  This time it wasn’t with joy but with fear.  Fear of what I saw and fear of not knowing where this was headed.