The Day Jackie Died . . . . . Or At Least We Thought He Did!

As a kid I did a lot of things that today would be considered dangerous. I rode a bike without a helmet. What?!?!? How stupid was I? I had countless wrecks on that bicycle that led to countless skinned knees, legs, arms, and hands, but somehow I lived to tell the tales of my escapades. I played tackle football without a helmet, or pads for that matter. And I suffered no brain trauma – a fact disputed by those who know me best. However, it was not without danger.

I remember one of the many football games played on the Junior High practice field (later moved to the High School Band practice field) by the Sunday Afternoon Ragknots. Jackie had the ball. In the process of being tackled one of us came in to make sure he was down. In so doing, the diligent player hit Jackie in the chest with his knee. For just a couple of seconds Jackie looked dead and then he went into seizures with the accompanying foam in the mouth. Stanley, my best friend, and the competent football team trainer, sprang into action. He told us what not to do – stick our finger in his mouth, because Jackie could bite our finger off. We obeyed. Stanley’s efforts to stop the seizure were unfruitful, so he got his car and drove over to where Jackie lay writhing.

Three of us managed to get into the back seat of the car with the convulsing Jackie on our laps. (BTW, Stanley drove a large Pontiac which allowed room for all three of us and Jackie with room to spare. No, such a rescue attempt would not be possible in today’s cars, but I digress.) Stanley was never known to drive slowly and, in an emergency, he figured he had the moral imperative to speed. As we were flying to the hospital Stanley hit a dip in the road which caused us to actually fly. We went airborne. Jackie flew up and hit the roof of the car and fell back in our laps – totally still, non-responsive and non-convulsive.

We screamed at Stanley, but not to slow down, but rather speed up because Jackie was dead. He looked dead, acted dead, and certainly felt dead in our laps. Stanley was yelling at us to check his pulse, an action that was truly impossible in a car traveling at highway speed on city streets. We didn’t find a pulse but we did get to the Emergency Room in record time. The nurses and orderlies took him into the exam room to check him out. It was a blessing that we grew up in a relatively small town. We were the only ones there besides the medical staff who I think we woke up from their Sunday afternoon naps.

We waited in a quiet yet panicked state – fully waiting for the doctor to come out with head down, uttering those fearful words, “We lost him.” But no – Jackie was going to be OK!

Later, in the room where Jackie was to spend the night for observation, he told us that the doctor wasn’t totally sure what happened, but that he figured that the knee to the chest caused Jackie’s heart to either speed up to 3 times the normal rate or to start skipping beats. Either way, he was going to be OK. I don’t remember Jackie playing with us on Sunday afternoons after that, although my memory may fail me at that point. However, like the NFL, we established a new rule in light of what happened. From that point on, knees were never to be used to make sure a ball carrier stayed down. Full body contact, of course, was still allowed – but no knees.

There is a saying that God watches over babies and fools. It’s not in the Bible and yet, I know that on that particular Sunday afternoon, God was watching over us and sent His angels to step in and help the poor fools who had exhausted all of their abilities to remedy the situation. We should always remember that God is willing to help in each and every difficulty we face – even those times when someone wants to make sure we’re down and that we stay down. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)