Thursday, July 31, 2008

Heroes Among Us

Most of you will recall Chris Kacsmar's (centre) brush with death last February, but for those of you reading this from afar I'll summarize the incident.  Chris and his pals Chico Martineau (right) and Ali Roy (left) were well into a friendly game of indoor soccer when Chris suddenly reeled forward onto his face.  The other players thought he was feigning to be hurt to slow down the play.  Seconds ticked by and Chris lay motionless. Within moments his pal Ali realized this was no joke.  He knelt down next to Chris and rolled him over.  What he saw caused alarm; Chris' breathing was erratic, his face twisted, and his eyes were "somewhere else."  The doctors later determined that something terribly wrong caused the electrical patterns of Chris' heart to stop cold.  For all intents and purposes, Chris was dead.  Ali yelled for help and he and Chico immediately started performing CPR.  Someone called 911 and a staff person appeared with an automatic external defibrillator which was immediately put to work. Between the quick thinking of Ali and Chico, and the defibrillator, Chris' heart re-started and his breathing returned.  Chris was rushed to the hospital where the doctors kept him in a medically induced coma for 24 hours while they put him through a battery of tests.  Chris, an otherwise healthy and active 52 year old, says "It was just one of those freak things.  They don't know if it'll happen again. I have a built-in defibrillator now." Ali Roy and Chico Martineau received a Red Cross Award this week for their heroic efforts in saving their friend's life.  
The running community supported the family during Chris' convalescence by providing meals, baby sitting, and lending support and comfort where needed.  We came together in a big way and I like to think we made a tiny difference to the family during this remarkably difficult time. Like all communities we supported our own, even if we didn't know them personally.  We didn't need to voice our thoughts... it could have been anyone of us, fate chose Chris.
What can we take from this experience?  For me I think of family and friends.  I think of the preciousness of life and I think of the the thin thread from which we all dangle precariously.  I think of how lucky I am to have good health, numerous friends, and supportive family.  I think of the quality of my life past and present.  I think of my friend Jim who, at age 49, died from cardiac arrest... sadly, there were no heroes around.  I think of Ali and Chico and the shy heroes that walk among us and perform extraordinary courageous acts when called upon.
Most of all I think of Chris and Shelley and how they survived this ordeal with such dignity and love.  They accepted our acts of kindness with gratitude understanding full well that they were for us just as much as for them.  
I've never met Chico and Ali.  Perhaps I will one day and if I do, I'll tell them they're heroes. 
To my pal Jim... I think of you every day.


Jen said...

When things like that happen it really hits home how fragile life is and how things can change in an instant. I think it's great how the running community came together. I am always amazed at the goodness of people. It gives me hope in a world that sometimes looks hopeless. I'm sure you all made a difference in their lives. I know I take for granted the things I am able to do physically. I'm no world class athlete, never will be, but still...there's so much we can do that so many others don't have the chance to do. I've had this on my mind this week too and now you've inspired me to post about it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Poor Ali also had the crappy job of phoning me, taking me to the ER, and making sure I didn't fall into a million pieces once there. He's been my friend for 17 yrs, and Chris' for over 30. He is one amazing guy.

You guys did not make a tiny difference. It was enormous. I knew I had great running friends, but that was proved beyond a doubt over and over. As terrifying and awful as that time was, you guys made it as easy as possible for the kids and me. We are forever grateful.


P.S. Chris decided to do the half with us this year, his first. Several of us were a little out of shape and behind on training, so we decided to do a very non-competitive "booze cruise", complete with sillyness and shooters on the sidelines. He, of course, ran circles around us.