By Mark Knudson @MarkKnudson41
Special to Mile High Sports
I was gone. They brought me back.
How do you even start to say “Thank you” in this situation? Absolutely nothing can be sufficient.
Long story short: On Thursday April 4th, after working out with my son and finishing the taping of a radio show, I moved on to the Northwest Open Space baseball fields in Northglenn where my high school team, the Prospect Ridge Academy Miners, was scheduled to play Skyview Academy in a Metro League baseball game. (Keep in mind that Skyview is based in Highlands Ranch. That matters later.)
After a slow start we battled back, but ended up coming up short, losing 6-5. It was a frustrating loss to be sure. Afterwards, I was sitting in the dugout replaying some key moments in my head as the Junior Varsity game got underway. I was also starting to deal with a dull ache in my pectoral muscles on both sides of my upper chest, right under my collarbone. I thought I was dehydrated, so I took a seat in the bullpen and tried to relax and drink some water while the JV game was playing out.
Our team trainer, Dr. Mike Boehner, was bringing me water and getting more and more concerned, so he finally called my wife so she could come and take me to the doctor.
Meanwhile, just a few yards from where I was sitting, North Metro Fire District firefighters Jack Daughtery, Josh Dento and Anthony Keough stood by, watching Jack’s son play for Skyview. While Jack works in Northglenn, the family resides in Highland’s Ranch. This was a pretty rare opportunity for him to get to see his son play while he was on-duty, since he was stationed close by. Skyview doesn’t have a home field, so every game is a road game for them. This time the road game was at least close to Jack’s work.
When my wife Allison arrived at the field, I got up and we began walking to her car in the parking lot. As we passed the three firefighters, Allison asked me if we should say something to them. Nah, I said, just take me to the doctor.
I only made if a few more steps before I collapsed. Dr. Mike caught me or I may have cracked my skull on the pavement. I was in cardiac arrest.
Allison ran back over to the firefighters, who immediately began CPR. My heart had stopped. They jump started it. An ambulance took me to St. Anthony’s North Hospital where surgery repaired a blocked artery connecting to my heart.
They saved my life.
When I woke up, I was surrounded by loved ones and school officials, all relieved to see my eyes open. “Great to see you, Coach,” said our Athletic Director Ellie Kempe. “Great to be seen,” I replied.
Not long after that, I was alone with my thoughts, tubes and needles stuck in my arms, making it very hard to sleep. My wife slept awkwardly on a nearby couch while I contemplated where my life was at that exact moment. I worried about my family. I wondered about my immediate future. Would I be able to coach anymore? I had fallen in love with the job over the past two years. I couldn’t see not coaching. But could I? Could anything in my life be “normal” again?
After taking with the doctor the next day, I was assured I could make a complete recovery…IF I was willing to take some extra steps that needed to be in place due to my family history of heart disease. Extra steps? No problem. The alternative stinks.
Since then, I’ve had plenty of time to think more about what had happened…and especially about those involved in saving my life. Allison had already tracked down the names of the three firefighters involved. We knew they’d be off duty for a few more days, so we planned to see them again when they were back at work.
When the day arrived, with Allison back at work and me finally cleared to drive, I decided to drive over the fire station and meet these three extraordinary men that I had not actually formally met yet. If you’re someone who does not subscribe to the idea of a higher power, then you can probably dismiss the idea of Divine Intervention in my incident. I myself can’t dismiss that idea. I’ll always believe the hand of God was involved in them being present. Someone prove me wrong.
When I arrived at the front door of the firehouse, I walked in and tired to introduce myself. I couldn’t get the words out. When I saw the name “Daughtery” on the fireman’s uniform, I broke down.
All three men where there, and when they recognized me, they broke out in huge smiles, greeted me warmly and brought me inside to sit down and talk. If their work had a scoreboard, my case would qualify as a rare “win” for them. Survival rates for people who undergo CPR are very low. Somewhere around 13 percent I’m told. Having someone you literally brought back to life show up on your doorstep has to be seen as a Hail Mary kind of victory.
I muttered something like “I want to say thank you, but that’s not close to enough.” Dento – the one who pounded on my chest and got my heart beating again – smiled as he replied, “Having you standing here is all the thanks we need.”