Saturday finally came and the Miles household was buzzing. The tournament would take place in three different gyms and the boys were running the clock at two different sites so they were up early and out the door. Stephanie made sure that Emmy got a breakfast with lots of protein. She’d felt great all week and Stephanie knew that today and tomorrow she would give it everything she had. Monday was another chemo treatment and Emmy knew what that meant.
Their first game was at Lincoln at 10. It was a 7th grade game and the team won easily. The 8th grade followed and Emmy played an amazing game. She scored 24 points and had 12 steals. Brett and Stephanie just looked at each other and smiled. The finger wasn’t bothering her at all. Brett watched throughout the game and there were no signs of her running out of gas. He just hoped that she wasn’t using it all up too early.
For lunch the whole team went out to the local pizza place and the players stuffed themselves. Emmy sat beside Stephanie and watched the other players laughing and having a great time, but her mind was already on the next game. Brett watched as Emmy ate but didn’t really talk or goof off like the others. He wondered if she was tired, or maybe just shy. It could be that was just her personality, he’d only really known her for a couple weeks. It was two weeks ago this evening that he and Stephanie had sat in the floor and made the decision to bring Emmy into their home.
That afternoon both of the teams played again. The 7th grade game was another cakewalk. Emmy only played about ten minutes in the whole game. Their second and third string players were even too much for the opposing starters.
The eighth grade game started right at 3:00. This was one of the games the coaches had been looking forward to. They were playing an old rival, not the titans but another team that they’d lost to last year. The Seatonville Stallions were the complete opposite of the Titans. They were little and quick. The first half was a draw. They went into the locker room tied. The good news was that the other team had picked up quite a few fouls.
The plan was to exploit that early in the second half. They were going to push the ball inside and hopefully get two more fouls on their one tall girl. She had blocked a couple of Emmy’s shots in the first half and without her the other team wouldn’t be able control the middle.
Stephanie smiled as the horn sounded indicating that a player had fouled out. With four minutes to go in the game they’d gotten rid of the center. On the very next play Emmy drove the lane and without their center in there swatting she laid it right in. Their point guard tried to turn it on and took off down the floor. She lost the ball and Emmy took off after it. Along the sideline near mid court she saved the ball right to Maisy who made the layup. After saving the ball Emmy couldn’t stop. She went head first into the bleachers.
The gymnasium went silent as they waited to see if she was going to get up. Emmy had to admit that this one hurt but she got up anyway. Pulling herself out of the bleachers she felt something running down her forehead. Reaching up she realized she was bleeding. In a moment reminiscent of the Jeter headfirst dive into the bleachers the crowd all applauded her effort and the fact that she was OK. Stephanie and Brett had seen the blood and grabbed towel before heading over to her. Stephanie handed her the towel and Emmy pressed it to her head.
They walked back around and put someone in for her. Brett coached while Rick and Stephanie examined Emmy. “How bad is it?” Emmy looked at Stephanie with those big blue puppy dog eyes.
“Not good. It’s not stopping so I think it’s going to need some stitches.”
“Ok lets go fast. So we can get back for the next one.”
“Whoa, wait a minute. You’re only playing if a doctor OK’s it.”
“Sure, but people go get stitches at half time all the time and go right back in and play. I didn’t smash it I just cut it on something in the bleachers.”
Rick had grabbed second towel. “Emmy your elbow is bleeding too.” She looked down. It was all scraped up, as was her knee. They didn’t hurt that bad, but Emmy knew that the chemo made her bruise and bleed worse. She wiped it away with the towel. “Its not bad. Coach you go back to the game, Rick can take me to the immediate care and get it stitched. We’ll be back in a hour.”
“No we better take you since it’s a head injury.” Emmy sighed. Stephanie walked up to Brett and whispered in his ear and then he handed her the keys. “Alright he’s got this under control lets go get you stitched up.” Stephanie couldn’t help but smile as Emmy looked up at her. Her fingers taped together and purple. Holding a towel to her forehead where blood was still oozing from a nasty cut. Her legs were covered in floor burns and scrapes from the bleachers as blood trickled down her forearm.
Several of the players yelled “good luck” as she left. She smiled at them. “Win this OK?” They all nodded.
Stephanie called Dr. Hatcher and explained the situation. He said he’d like to see her, rather than going to an immediate care. When they arrived they were supposed to go ahead and come upstairs instead of heading into the emergency room. Holly was on duty and would run downstairs and take care of admitting.
While they were still on their way in Dr. Hatcher placed a call. “Luke are you on duty today?”
“That’s fantastic. I need a big favor.” Dr. Hatcher explained to Dr. Luke Ritten Emmy’s situation.
“I can’t thank you enough.”
“Yes a case of that beer sounds like a good trade.” Dr. Hatcher and Luke played tennis together. Several months ago Dr. Hatcher had gone home to Kansas City and brought back a case of Boulevard Beer, a local specialty. He’d shared some with Dr. Ritten and he was hooked.
Back at the tournament when the game ended Brett led them all back to the cafeteria where one of the Dad’s had trays of deli sandwiches waiting. “You guys fuel up. We’ve got about two hours until we play again.” He started to walk out to the hall when one of the parents stopped him.
“Brett, has anyone gotten a hold of Emmy’s parents?” They hadn’t really told anyone about Emmy’s situation or that she was living with them. He really wanted Emmy to be the one to tell them, but she wasn’t a real talker. So he fibbed a little. “Yes, they know. I’m going to go out here and check on her.”
He texted her and soon got back a text that they were waiting on it to stop bleeding. Brett let Stephanie know that one of the parents asked about Emmy’s parents. It was something they were probably going to have to address.
“Dr. Hatcher Emmy’s here.” Holly stuck her head in his office. Dr. Hatcher walked out to the nurses’ station and found Emmy standing there with a towel pressed to her head. She was wearing her white uniform, which was covered in drips of blood. There were dried streaks of blood down her face. Her elbow and the side of her leg were also bleeding.
“Holy cow. What did you do?”
Emmy didn’t answer at first, but Stephanie refused to answer for her. “I went for a ball and ended up in the bleachers.”
“Did you save the ball?”
Emmy smiled “I did.”
“Ok then at least it was worth it.”
Stephanie shook her head. “Please don’t encourage her, doctor.” He nodded.
“Let’s go take a look at this.” Dr. Hatcher and Holly lead them down the hall to an exam room. Emmy tried to climb up to the table and as she did let the pressure off and felt a new rush of blood flowing down her face. She quickly held the towel back.
“Here let me help. On three. One, two, three.” On three Emmy jumped and Stephanie boosted her up onto the table.
“Well I was going to ask if it had stopped, but that answers my question. What exactly happened?”
“I went into the bleachers near the steps and cut it on the metal edge”
“Is that what got the elbow and leg too?”
Emmy shook her head yes. Dr. Hatcher cleaned both of those up first.
“Is this the only towel you’ve used?”
Emmy didn’t really know the answer to that one so she looked to Stephanie. “Yes. That’s it.”
“Good well you haven’t really lost very much blood. I’m going to move this and take a quick look.” He grabbed a piece of gauze and removed the towel. The gash was on her forehead just above her left eye. It started just below her hairline and extended about two inches down her forehead. Stephanie hadn’t really looked at it and noticed now that it ran almost perfectly straight down.
As he looked, it began bleeding again, but he was able to see the size of the cut and how deep it was.”
“Little lady that’s a whopper. Here’s the good news. This is just a cut. There is no real sign of a head injury or potential for concussion. It’s bleeding like crazy because it’s a head wound and the chemo.” He reached over and grabbed a syringe. Stephanie cringed. “Holly is going to be in charge of keeping pressure on this for a little while. She’s going to push pretty hard so we want to numb it first. Let’s get you to lay back and slide your hands under you.” Stephanie watched as Emmy slid her blood-covered hands behind her back. As soon as she did he quickly pushed the tip of the needle into Emmy’s skin just to the left of the gash in her head. Emmy closed her eyes but didn’t move. “All done.” He tossed the syringe into the biohazard bin attached to the side of the cabinet. “So Holly is going to give that about five minutes to get really good and numb. Then she’s going to press really hard on the cut. We’ll see if that gets it to stop. I think it will. Now once it stops I’ve called a friend downstairs who is a plastic surgeon and he’ll come up here and stitch you up. Since it’s on your face you probably want someone a little neater than me doing it. Any questions?”
Stephanie had a thousand but Emmy beat her. “Can I play tonight?”
Dr. Hatcher looked at Stephanie who he knew wanted him to say no. “If we get this to stop easily then yes.” Stephanie closed her eyes. “Sorry coach. Despite the amount of blood this wasn’t bad.” Emmy smiled from ear to ear. “Coach would you come with me I’ve got some paperwork for you?” Dr. Hatcher wanted to talk to Coach Miles alone for a moment.
“So how’s she doing?”
“Really well. Except for the fact that this is the second emergency room visit in two weeks.”
“The fingers?” Stephanie nodded. “Broken?”
“Dislocated. The doctor at the immediate care noticed some old signs of abuse also.”
“Her case worker mentioned it when we first started treating her. Eating?”
“Everything in sight. My boys have introduced her to every junk food known to man.” Dr. Hatcher chuckled he was so glad that Emmy was finally getting to be a kid.
“Sorry, that’s great to hear. Next week will probably be rough again. She’ll go through another round like the last and it wiped her out. Just roll with the energy this week because next week won’t be as good. She’s got to have ups like this to carry her through the downs.” Stephanie nodded. She really had no idea what to expect. “Even with cancer she’s still a kid. Apparently a very talented kid. In high school I broke my nose three times one season playing football. I saw others play with broken toes and fingers all the time. And stitches are a rite of passage.”
“I know it’s just so hard to understand what she’s going through.”
“Still not much of a talker?”
“I think we’ve started getting two word answers.”
“She’ll come around. Trusting adults is rough for a kid that’s been through what she has. Time and love are what she needs right now.”
“She has time right?”
Dr. Hatcher put a hand on her shoulder. “Absolutely. Her cancer was caught early. There is every reason to believe that once she’s through the chemo that she’ll get a clean bill of health. And this will just be a bump in the road for our future WNBA player.” Stephanie smiled because she knew that with the talent she had already that was a real possibility.
“I’m going to go call Dr. Ritten, he’s the one that’s going to stitch her up. I’ll get him to look at it and if it hasn’t stopped bleeding maybe he’ll have some other ideas.”
“Thank you Doctor for everything.” He nodded and headed down the hall to the nurses station.
Back in the room Holly and Emmy were talking about the team they were supposed to play tonight. Stephanie smiled. “Brett just texted we held them off and won by two.”
“Whew.” Emmy pumped her fist.
“Emmy was telling me about the fingers.”
“Yeah she’s had a rough couple of weeks.”
“Not rough weeks, great weeks.” Emmy corrected her. “Chemo week was rough, the last two have been wonderful. I’ve felt good and got to live in a real house.” She looked at Stephanie and smiled. Stephanie just about lost it. Those were things that every kid was supposed to just have by default.
They waited in silence both of the women processing what Emmy had said. When the ten minutes had passed Dr. Hatcher and another man entered the room.
“Emmy this is Dr. Ritten. He’s gong to take a look at you and hopefully get this stitched up.” Dr. Ritten came around to where Holly was standing. He placed the little blue package he’d brought on the counter and opened it. “So Emmy I hear that you didn’t trust Dr. Hatcher here to stitch this up? I don’t blame you he’s kind of sloppy.” Emmy smiled.
“Its true.” Dr. Hatcher agreed.
“So if this has stopped I’m going to go fast ok.” He took the job of applying pressure from Holly. Lifting the gauze he waited just a second. There was no blood. “Good news it’s stopped. So here we go.” He began and all Emmy could feel was some tugging. It took him about fifteen minutes. Stephanie had to look away as he worked. She knew that Emmy couldn’t feel it, but it looked horrible.
Dr. Ritten noticed her looking at the floor. “It’s Ok coach that was a bad one. Emmy you did a number on your head that one was all the way to the bone and over 2 inches long. And not a single tear I’m impressed.” He finished up and helped Emmy sit up.
Dr. Hatcher looked it over. “Looks good Luke. Guess you earned that beer.” Luke shook his hand and then turned to Emmy to shake hers. “I understand you are playing in a tournament?” Emmy nodded. “OK two things. Try to keep those stitches as dry as possible for the next 24 hours. You’re going to sweat so keep some Polysporin on them, which will keep the sweat out and protect against infection. Don’t cover them that will just give the sweat a place to pool. The second thing, go win this tournament.” To that Emmy smiled from ear to ear.
“Yes sir.” He fist bumped her and then turned to go.
Holly came back in with the discharge papers. After hugs and several of Stephanie’s signatures they were on the elevator heading back down. Once the doors closed Stephanie slid her arm over the girl’s shoulders and pulled her close kissing her on the head, careful not to get the stitches. For Emmy it was an amazing feeling that she’d almost forgotten about.
She called Brett as they walked to the car. “Well we are all stitched up and on our way back. Emmys all good to play.”
“That’s good to hear. You’ve got 45 minutes to get back.”
“We’ll be there in plenty of time.”
“The team’s going to be glad to hear it. Drive safe. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
Brett turned to the team, who were still chilling in the cafeteria. “That was Stephanie Emmy’s all stitched up and on her way back.”
The cafeteria erupted in a cacophony of cheers.
“Emmy have you talked to any of the team about living at St. Thomas?”
“What about living with us?”
“Well we might need to tell them.”
“Well some of the parents were worried tonight that your parents didn’t know about you going to the hospital tonight. Brett just told them that your parents knew. He wanted it to be your decision.”
“Do we have to tell them about the cancer?”
“Not until your ready.”
“I don’t care if they know I’m an orphan, but I don’t want anyone else to know about the cancer or the chemo.”
Stephanie stopped and got Emmy something to eat and drink on the way back. This made them a little close getting back. As she got out of the car Stephanie realized that Emmy’s uniform was still covered in blood. The officials would never let her play like that. Coach Jameson always had an extra uniform or two for just such a problem.
Inside the team was already on the floor warming up. Emmy walked in and everyone noticed. They all resisted the urge to run at her and just waved. All the parents noticed too and the crowd began clapping. Emmy just kept walking to the bench where Brett pulled her into a hug. “Glad you’re OK.”
Coach Jameson immediately came to the rescue. “I think you might need this.” He held out a clean uniform. Emmy took it and thanked him, running back to the locker room to change.
“So she’s really OK?”
“Yep two different Doctors looked at it and it really was just a cut. She thought she hit the metal strip on the edge of the stairs.”
“Did you get ahold of her parents?” Stephanie realized that Rick didn’t even know about Emmy’s situation.
“Rick,” She walked him over toward the coach’s office. “We found week that Emmy was orphaned when she was 8 and she’s been living at St. Thomas Children’s Home for the past year.”
“The black eye was from a girl there.”
“Sow couple weeks ago Emmy came to live with us.”
Rick smiled. “Good.”
“I’m sorry we didn’t say anything, but we were kind of figuring it all out. We kind of thought that Emmy would tell someone and it would just get out there. But...”
“Emmy’s not a talker.”
“Its ok it’s a family matter, I understand.”
“But Rick you’re part of our family and that’s why I wanted you to be the first to know.”
“What do the boys think?”
“They are absolutely in love. Having a little sister has apparently been a dream that they never shared with anyone.”
Emerging from the locker room was Emmy. Stephanie pulled the medicine from her pocket and Emmy dutifully came over. She leaned down and Coach applied a little. “Now go get ’em” Emmy ran out to warm up with the team.
After the events of the day the rest of the tournament was a breeze. Emmy was on fire. She had a triple double in the game they played on Saturday night and then 25 and 35 points in the two games she played on Sunday. She was voted MVP of the tournament by the other coaches.
Heading home on Sunday night Emmy was looking at her MVP medal. “No matter what happens tomorrow. This was the greatest weekend ever.” Stephanie and Brett both looked at each other. This was the first time that Emmy had ever just shared what was on her mind. Heck it was one of only a handful of times she’d ever spoken without them asking her something.
“Emmy you are an amazing kid. Don’t forget that ok?” Brett looked in the rearview mirror as he said it and saw Emmy smile.