For Knox West High folk, no one will forget the season opener in August 2009 which ended when Sullivan South Rebel Jake #54 collapsed on the field. No one saw him fall or take a hit, his teammate yelled for help when he saw his buddy lying facedown on the ground. I was standing on the sideline taking pictures of the West Rebels striking up a conversation with S So's AD. We noticed both teams' trainers were running to the field to aid the player who was down. I told the AD I was a physician, so I joined him as we walked out to the player but on the approach, I knew at least one doc was already there. I also knew our awesome trainer was there. As we arrived he was being "log rolled" to protect his neck and to get him onto his back. I was shocked to see this young man was not breathing. Immediately, an AED was placed and a 911 call was made. No pulse, no respirations so CPR was begun. I was more of an observer but having just completed recertification in ACLS, I felt being the one to recall/record info was helpful. One dad was an Emergency Medicine doc, one dad was Family Medicine and one was a radiologist who had not forgotten how to do chest compressions at the correct place, pace, and depth at the mid-sternum. One mom was an RN who got an IV going (it was like the Red Sea parted when she said she could get an IV). First Responders were there within a few minutes of the call, initiating intubation while chest compressions were going. The AED ( automatic electronic defibrillator) kept reading but never "saw" a rhythm to shock. EMS arrived and carried him to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead. This part of the story saddens me now as much as it shocked me then. I was thankful in an odd kind of way to have been with this team of doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, and school trainers (one who ran the AED) who performed their duties well but futile nonetheless. I would want to gain permission from his family before commenting further on Jake's condition and cause of death, but I sense that Jake was a young man who had a sense of his destiny. I will tell you at the end why this is my opinion.
My son Sam #38 is pictured across from Jake #54 when the senior team captains shook hands at the coin toss that night. I went back later and pulled as many pictures as I could and was amazed at the ones my friend Polly Burch and I had of Jake.
Fast forward to Sam's Freshman year at UT Knoxville. He called to tell me he had new friends from Sullivan South his flag football team was a mix of several West Rebels and Sullivan South Rebels. Small world that these young men became friends. Sam mentioned Clint who was one of Jake's best friends. Sam was impressed with Clint's football skills and liked being on the same team. Later, he had a class or two with him and realized Clint was pre-med. Sam was pre-physical therapy at that time thinking of a cross between sports trainer or getting his doctorate of PT.
Fast forward another 6 years and I am teaching medical procedures to a young man named Clint. We talk a little about Sam but I forgot the connection after he rotated off my service.
Recently, as a fourth-year medical student, I had the honor to write Clint's MSPE (a letter that outlines his med school performance) which is part of his residency search and the MATCH. A mutual friend reminded me of the connection Clint has to Jake and Sam. I was awed that it was Clint's dad who was the Radiologist performing appropriate chest compressions that fateful night. I commented to Clint that I have to think that Jake, who knew he had a heart condition, would rather have played the game he loved and died while playing than die not having played. To find my solace (not that this is about me), I feel that somehow he knew his time on this earth was limited. To my utter wonderment, Clint agreed. His friend had spoken at times as one who understands a deeper meaning to life and spoke in the present not the future.
The serendipity I see as God moments simply send goosebumps down my spine. I love that this young student physician is following in his dad's and granddad's footsteps of serving others through the practice of medicine. I love that Jake's witness as a believer lives on in the lives of his friends and family. I love that I am allowed a glimpse into their stories.