Oscar is a huge Oakland A’s fan. He doesn’t go anywhere without his A’s hat, and is always wearing his A’s socks, t-shirt, or sweatshirt—and sometimes all three. His bedroom is papered with player posters pulled from Athletics magazines and his bed is topped with the fleece A’s blanket that Ruby made him a couple of years ago. And, of course, his walls are green and his comforter yellow—not as bright as the A’s uniforms, but still.
For years now, whenever Oscar gets frustrated or is complaining about a hard task, we’ve used the A’s for distraction. Hiking up a huge hill?—just get Oscar talking about player stats or salaries and he’ll go for miles. Not excited about a blood draw?—discuss prospects or outfield depth. We’ve been doing this for so long that Oscar’s passion for the green and gold has infected me, and now I sometimes give him updates. That Jeurys Familia trade—yep, I knew about it first.
Now, recovering from spine surgery, we’re using the A’s to get through everything. Oscar needs to do breathing exercises to expand his lungs and encourage healing. The incentive spirometer is too challenging, so we started using one of those party favor horns that roll out when you blow. Oscar wasn’t blowing hard enough to fully unroll the paper tube, so I made up a game—I told him we were going to help the A’s win. I called out a player, like Marcus Semien, and Oscar blew. Depending on how far the paper unfurled, batters got a single, double, triple, or home run. We went through the whole line up, and it worked! Oscar’s effort improved and the A’s started earning 10, then 20, runs per “game.” (Stephen Piscotty always hits homers, as does Khris Davis.)
Last night, Oscar was determined not to go for another walk. “I can’t do this! It’s too hard,” he told me. His eyes had started to fill and he was exhausted. But he needed to walk to keep his GI system moving, to help his chest tube drain, to get his muscles used to working with their new spine.
So I called in the Oakland A’s. They’d just swept the Texas Rangers and had a series of spectacular come-from-behind victories. “You’re just like the A’s,” I told him. “Look at what happened this week—they were behind by eight runs on Tuesday, but they didn’t give up. They believed in themselves and they won. And they did it again the next night. They battle day after day…just like you, Bud.”
He stopped protesting and sighed, “Yeah. Okay.” And then he got up and did another lap on the PICU floor.