A few months back a mutual friend arranged a meeting for our family with a couple of others that have adopted from China, all being special needs cases. It made for a great day at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
This column ran in the sports section of our local paper a few weeks ago, but wasn’t available online. Will Startup was a star pitcher for the Cartersville (Ga.) High School Purple Hurricanes in the early 2000s, hence the local sports angle. I’ve been tremendously blessed by the perseverance and faith of Will and his wife Lauren since their baby boy, Copeland, experienced cardiopulmonary arrest in June. I encourage you to do yourself a favor and begin – today – to follow Will’s blog at willlaurenstartup.blogspot.com and keep them in your prayers.
For Will, a new start
On receiving the news June 7, everything slowed down for Will Startup. A pitcher for the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters, the day to that point had gone well for the former Cartersville High and UGA great, but then someone told him his baby boy had died before being revived.
“I grabbed one of my buddy’s shoulders for support because I was going to fall over,” he remembers. “It felt like the world stopped and I was hearing a muffled version of people walking by.”
Some 700 miles away, little 20-month-old Copeland Startup had already been transported to Children’s Healthcare Hospital, Egleston in Atlanta. In the care of his grandmother in Cartersville, Copeland’s heart simply stopped beating. Her recently taking a class in CPR and an EMT’s electric paddles brought him back.
A man of faith, Will took to his blog (willlaurenstartup.blogspot.com) to send out an urgent need for prayer:
“I am at the airport hoping for a flight. Copeland passed out today and was saved by CPR by his MiMi. He was air lifted to Egleston hospital. I don’t have any other details. Please pray for Copeland. I will update as soon as I can.”
Will was able to snatch a flight out of Houston, but things didn’t work out as well for Lauren Startup. In Virginia working towards a Master’s degree, flight schedules didn’t cooperate and left her with an 8 1/2-hour, white-knuckle prayer session in a car to Atlanta, where a breathing tube was keeping her little boy alive.
Reunited, the Startups were told Copeland had experienced cardiopulmonary arrest. They further learned only 5% survive when it happens outside a hospital.
Thankful their son was alive, the trial was only beginning. Tests, sleepless nights, repeated attempts to draw blood, and a gauntlet of emotions were to come in the weeks ahead.
For the last ten years, at least, Will had operated from a position where he had control of the outcome. On the baseball diamond it all starts with the pitcher’s performance and Will had done well. In 2001 and ’02 he was dominant in delivering the Purple Hurricanes their first two of five state titles through ’09. He went on to be an All-American for the Dawgs before being drafted by the Braves.
He’d get closest to the Majors with stints at the AAA level for the Braves, Padres, and most recently the Orioles last year. The Skeeters are an independent minor league team in the Houston area.
Like any honorable man with family to support, Will had become somewhat down on the turn his career had taken. But if the current situation had brought anything, it was clarity.
“The event changed my perspective on baseball because at the time nothing mattered more than my son. I wouldn’t have thought twice about walking away [from the sport],” he says.
“I always loved my son but it’s a deeper love now. However much it hurts to think about losing him is how much more I love him now. Our family was pushed to the limits and we worked wonderfully as a team.
“We’re definitely taking life as it’s given to us. I’m enjoying the small moments.”
On July 7, a breakthrough. On his way to a therapy session at the hospital, Copeland saw some dogs used for those purposes. His therapist spontaneously asked if he liked dogs and wanted to walk one. An unsteady climb out of the wheelchair followed by a couple of awkward steps toward a yellow lab set off a scramble for cell phone camera documentation as Will and Lauren got the rare opportunity to see their son take his first steps … again. Will shared the experience online:
“He took off. And he walked for a long time. Thank you Jesus! What an answer to prayer.”
Video is on the blog. When you watch it expect salty moisture in the corners of your eyes.
Six days later Will, Lauren, and Copeland were finally home in Cumming with their dogs Roy and Piper. The time came for adjusting to Copeland’s new normal,which includes the constant company of a device basically serving as a pacemaker/defibrillator.
Time at home brought more blog posts and the emergence of Grover. Go to the blog and watch the videos and you’ll know what I mean. As the father of young children, I’m impressed with Will’s Grover voice.
On Thursday, life for the Startups took another step toward normal with a return to Houston. The family has become acquainted with Texas Children’s Hospital, which is ranked third in the nation in pediatric cardiology. That night Will watching his team come from behind in a win.
On Friday Will did well in a pitching session with hitters. Before that night’s game against the Camden (N.J.) River Sharks, a check was presented to the Startups representing money collected by fans for Copeland’s medical bills. Not to be left out, River Sharks players emptied their wallets on the spot, Will recorded on a recent blog post.
It’s possible he’ll pitch as soon as tonight. If you’re interested, a link to listen is available at sugarlandskeeters.com.
“I am a little overwhelmed but easing back in,” Will says. “I’m looking forward to doing a Bible study on the road. I missed it and I’m glad to be back in my core community of believers.
“God will get glory for what has happened.”
This post is appearing in the sports section of today’s Cartersville (Ga.) Daily Tribune.
I belong to the group that actually likes watching almost any sport in the Olympic games. That was evident the moment I stood in my living room and cheered Ariel Hsing – the daughter of Chinese immigrants playing for the U.S. and ranked 110th in the world – giving her third-ranked Chinese opponent all she could handle until losing a women’s table tennis match. Call it interest bred by unfamiliarity, but I’ve also been drawn into team handball, water polo, archery, and weightlifting events alongside the staples of swimming and track and field.
Something I love about the games are the stories we don’t see anywhere else. Thanks to NBC’s U.S.-centric coverage (It’s about ratings. I get it.) many of us have missed learning about Guor Marial, who became a marathoner out of necessity in running from death squads while growing up in Sudan, or the trailblazing women representatives for Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Often the best stories are the ones we find by accident … or maybe we don’t.
On July 28 Brian Shoemaker was watching Olympic coverage when a piece on cyclist Timmy Duggan aired. However, something not mentioned in the story caught Brian’s attention: a small scar on Duggan’s top lip. He quickly DVR’d the segment for his wife, Leslie, to view later.
The interest came because Ryan McCrary, Leslie’s son from a previous marriage, was born with a unilateral complete cleft of the lip and palate. Seeing Duggan’s scar for herself and digging up a Los Angeles Times article confirmed the Olympian had also been born with the condition.
Every parent dreams big for his or her child. When your baby arrives and is outside the accepted “normal” the possibility of fulfilling those dreams takes a hit. Ryan was born without a left nostril and a gap in his upper lip the width of Leslie’s pinky finger clear to his uvula (that thing that hangs down in your throat).
His first of, thus far, 12 surgeries came at three months old. By the time he was two Ryan had finished his occupational and physical therapies but will continue speech therapy at Cartersville Elementary, where he began this week for a very lucky fifth grade teacher.
Full disclosure: I’m a personal friend of the Shoemakers. On the Fourth of July this year we barbecued at their house then watched the fireworks from Dellinger Park. Ryan is a typical kid who loves throwing the football with his dad Carson (who is remarried) as well as video games and too much candy. However, his most noticeable difference isn’t physical. His manners, courtesy, and all-around good kid-ness are second to none. He’s got a strong start in taking my daughter on her first date.
I’ll put it another way. Given his history and response, he pushes you to be better than you think you can be.
The same day Brian watched the special, Leslie messaged Duggan on Facebook about learning he’d been born with a cleft: “My 10 year old son, Ryan, was too and your story gives me tremendous hope. Praying for you on your Olympic journey. God speed from one cleft family to another!”
A couple of days ago Duggan responded.
“Hi Leslie thanks for the good words! Im glad my journey has provided some inspiration!”
It was a short exchange, sure, but one of those that carries. Though Ryan has aspirations of being on the 2020 Olympic basketball team, Lebron and Kobe have temporarily taken a back seat to a diminutive cyclist from Colorado named Timmy.
“That’s so cool!” he said to his mom after seeing the video and learning about the message on Facebook, adding later that,” [Learning about Duggan] tells me if he can do it, so can I.”
The tough road isn’t over for Ryan, as at least another surgery – the most difficult one yet – awaits and will take place between the ages of 16-18.
Individual names like Armstrong and LeMond dominate cycling, but it’s a team sport. The final results show Duggan finishing 88th in the Men’s Road Race held the same day a Cartersville family discovered a connection with him, but news reports give a more complete picture. Duggan’s role wasn’t to necessarily finish first, but set a fast pace that would eventually benefit teammate Taylor Phinney, who came within a bike length of claiming the bronze medal.
Ryan has a strong team. In addition to Leslie, Brian, Carson and his wife Lori, there are grandparents, extended relatives, friends, and hopefully some fans after this column. It gives him something else in common with Duggan, found in a comment by Phinney after his teammate nearly got him to the Olympic podium.
In short, Phinney said he was pushed, “beyond what I thought [I] was capable of.”
The wave of condemnation since the Freeh Report on Penn State released a week ago has been loud and massive. Powerful men chose to protect the university’s gleaming surface and a pedofile over children seeking a father figure but finding a monster. The outrage is more than justified.
Like many, I’d feared what the report commissioned by former FBI lead man Louis Freeh would contain. Even though I have no connection with the school or area around it, I’ve always had an appreciation for how the program was run. “The Penn State way” meant success gained how it should be – through the simple precepts of hard work and honor, exemplified on Saturdays in the team’s basic dark-royal-blue-and-white uniforms.
As we now know, that honor was misplaced. An overbearing allegiance to an institution, in time, compromised those very virtues it preached to uphold. I can’t imagine there not being whispers about Jerry Sandusky, especially after the fall 2000 incident where a custodian witnessed the former defensive coordinator and a young boy in a sex act in the assistant coaches’ shower room. That custodian, a Korean War vet who said it was an image he’d never forget, chose not to report the incident for fear of the influence held by head coach Joe Paterno.
Unrelated directly to the Sandusky case but showing the university’s sure seat of power, a highly-regarded vice president of student affairs made the mistake of expecting football players to face consequences of other students. After repeated run-ins with Paterno she was summarily dismissed.
By this point the soul of The Pennsylvania State University had become darkened. Although four names have kept appearing in the Freeh Report, it’s not a stretch that the list of those complicit runs much deeper. Secrets were surely kept, whispers suppressed. After all, football season was coming.
Here is where our self-righteous indignation, including my own, needs to be checked. I grew up in a state where a certain houndstooth-hat-wearing coach was indeed seen as a god. He still is. I remember his death being a story worthy of the six o’clock news a full month later. A sad country song was written about him. Grown men cried.
Don’t tell me the Penn State scandal couldn’t happen in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, or Knoxville. Cathedrals packed to the brim of more than 100,000 rabid followers showcase the talents each week of young men barely out of their teens. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive gave his own not-so-veiled word of caution this week at SEC Media Days, saying, “Last’s week’s headlines remind us that we must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity. … There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come into contact with it.”
Even closer to home, we all make face decisions that test our convictions. Communities in our county have those sacred institutions – whether it be a church, school, team, or civic group. Overwhelmingly, they usually instill local pride and serve a dutiful purpose in that area, but the far-reaching lesson from Penn State is that a commitment to the institution over its founding principles soon overshadows and even erases its contributions.
A recent Gallup Poll reported that Americans don’t trust institutions anymore. Organized religion, public schools, banks, and television news hit all-time lows in the survey. In religion’s case, that decline began in 1973. What’s interesting is that the percentage of Americans who say religion is very important in their lives has remained consistent from that point. People still believe in the key principles, but distrust the gatekeepers.
When your god allows an environment where young boys are abused, that god must die. Penn State needs to be rid of football for a couple of years. Melt down the statue of Paterno outside of Beaver Stadium and use the bronze to forge 26,000 pairs of baby shoes, each representing the approximate number of children that have died in this country from abuse since May 3, 1998, the first recorded instance of Sandusky’s actions, to his conviction on June 22.
And may we all resolve to protect the virtues we feel our team, school, and/or church represents, lest we take the same path.
Like everyone else I’m trying to digest the report released yesterday detailing the investigation into the Penn State child abuse scandal. Here are a few front pages from nearby newspapers, courtesy of Newseum.
In my previous post I wrote on my preparation for the 2nd Annual Etowah Road Race, this year held to help raise support for the adoption of our daughter Charlotte, now in China. This morning there were 20 individuals laced up and ready to run in this event slated to help a Bartow County family each year.
In case you were one of those unable to run or be at the event this morning, I thought I’d take you along with me.
Starting line. After a few words of instruction from the organizer, Jon, we’re at the line. I move over to the far right and with my wife’s honorary “Ready, set, go!” I take off in a sprint and start yelling to the photographer “Take the picture! Take the picture!” I’m guessing, seriously, that my brother Lance and I are the only people not in acceptable shape to run 6.2 miles. This was my only chance to be in front, so I took it.
30 ft from the starting line. My lead evaporates like a fly fart, as a wall of very fit humanity passes by.
1 mile. I’ve run enough to know that around this point is where I get into a rhythm, or what I consider a rhythm. It helps that I know the first water station is up ahead, manned by my buddy Jay and his son, Ryan. Ryan is a kid and has little-kid energy, which I’m appreciative of because he actually runs about 20 feet toward me with a cup. Already, 20 feet is a big difference. Before the race I’d also thought it would be nice of me to hang back with my little brother, who’s even less of a runner than me but wanted to show his support. We could pass the finish line in a show of brotherly solidarity. Already I’m wavering on my commitment to this as I don’t want to be pounding 265 pounds on my knees any more than I have to.
2 miles. I made the decision to go without an iPod on this run. Before I got accustomed to running with music, my internal jukebox did just fine. A healthy imagination gives you the ability to call up songs and hit “play” in your head. Unfortunately, this can also be a bit like driving an old car where the accelerator gets stuck. Sometimes the wrong song gets played and you can’t change the CD.
2.5 miles. From the planet Lexicon, watch out villans here she comes!
The internal jukebox is malfunctioning, as it’s calling up nothing but the intro song to Wordgirl. I’m blaming my son, who has latched onto a nightly show list on Georgia Public TV that includes Fetch, a kid game show that involves a cartoon dog; Arthur; Cat in the Hat, and the aforementioned Wordgirl. Once the theme to One Day at a Time rattled around in my head for three days (that point in itself made me revisit the innate creepiness from Schneider). Also, any thought of sticking by my little bro has been dashed. I’m already finding it too much to expend the energy for turning my head and checking where he is.
3.1 miles. I’m really dragging along when I see an angel. Her name is Stephanie and she’s at the midpoint water station. Here, instead of taking the cup and jogging along while trying to drink I stop for a moment and
rest chat with Stephanie. I do this because I’m courteous, and that’s how my mama raised me. Seriously.
3.5 miles. Back on my way, the internal jukebox is still not working. I keep trying to conjure up AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” but for some reason can’t get out of “For Those About to Rock.” That option’s okay, but for me Thunderstruck is what the kids today would call “my jam.” I doubt Angus Young has anything to do with the word “jam.” I’m pretty sure that’s not even the word Australians use for their jelly. In any case, I have the chorus to Thunderstruck but for some reason the intro to “Money Talks” in my head, so I roll with it.
4.7 miles. There’s a lady walking her dog in front of me. Not until I reach her do I realize I’m barely moving faster than she is. I’m slightly embarrassed by this and pick up the pace.
Huggy Face by her side, vocabulary a mile wide …
Hush up now, Wordgirl! Too late. I’m picturing her monkey sidekick, Captain Huggy Face. I make a mental note regarding my son’s TV viewing habits: less educational gobbeldy-goop, more Swamp People.
5 miles. I see an angel, and his name is Jay. We’ve circled around to the first water station, which is now the third, and last, water station. Ryan gives me a cup of liquid heaven. I stop and chat because I want to be courteous and that’s how my mama raised me. Seriously.
6 miles. I’m back in the neighborhood where the race began. Running past one yard, I really consider running through the nearest sprinkler to the road. God warns me not to, though, when I almost twist my ankle on the curb as I start to enter the yard. I keep going.
6.1 miles. There’s one last hill before running down to the finish. After cresting the hill, I see my daughter run about 20 yards out to meet me. This is a pretty cool moment. The exhaustion leaves as we sprint to the line. She makes me work for it, which is good. I needed to finish strong. Thanks, sweetie.
6.2 miles. Crossing the line, I barely hear the time of one hour, 13 minutes, 11 seconds. I’d been contemplating a Brandi Chastain-’99-World-Cup-shirt-dispensing kind of celebration, but I’m fat. And that would’ve just killed the whole vibe.
I may complain about running, but it’s really something I don’t mind. This fundraiser was perfect (Thanks again, Jon) for it to be a family event that, best of all, I didn’t have to put together. The event provided another avenue to tell our story in the local paper as well as a 20-minute radio interview.
Thanks one more time to all involved. If I could, I’d break out in song right now but unfortunately there’s only one song I can go to …
She’ll make sure that crime won’t pay
And throw some mighty words your way.
Word up. It’s Wordgirl.
Maybe you’ve heard that there’s heat wave in the South. Should you be unaware of the fact that Atlanta is poised to have its hottest day ever on record, then you haven’t gone within earshot of a TV, computer, radio, or human being in the past 48 hours.
With that knowledge and realization I wouldn’t get another chance before Wednesday, I drove early this morning to the starting point of the Etowah Road Race and
ran jogged meandered the route myself. My only goal from the beginning was to not walk. Somehow, don’t let both feet be on the ground at the same time. That, I’m proud to say, I accomplished … technically.
I know there are going to be a few experienced runners in the crowd Wednesday– I’ll venture to say it’s going to make up the majority. I feel my role is to prepare the rest of us, the people who just hope to finish. For sure, that group would include myself and my younger brother. That’s two. I’m hoping there’s going to be more for the slow-moving party.
Starting from the parking lot you’ll have about 200 feet of level pavement before a hill. It’s not a really big hill, but for me it doesn’t have to be. Three-quarters of the way up, I had all the forward motion of a semi hauling a load of steel high-rise beams up a mountain pass. Getting to the top, I was able to coast it a little down the other side and regain my breath somewhat. Not far from there, I was passed by and given a “good morning” by a familiar face. Before I recognized my friend Chris, a runner who is participating in the 10K, he’d opened up a Secretariat-at-the-Belmont-Stakes lead on me and was gone. Officially humbled, I made my way out of the neighborhood (about a mile) until I reached a highway.
Here’s where theatrics come into play. On a busier road, there will, obviously, be more cars and observers. I know I look bad while jogging, but I’ll still try to straighten my back and have an expression on my face that doesn’t resemble Lamaze breathing. Meeting people on the sidewalk out for a stroll or getting a jump on yard work, I’ll politely say “hi,” though it’s actually an exhale accompanied by a sound that may or may not be a vowel. Around mile 2, theatrics are given the hook and now it’s a mental game to get to the halfway point.
The halfway point is crucial for non-joggers like me because it forces us to complete the trail. Until then, I can mentally manufacture a phantom rock in my shoe, strained hammy, blister, or appendicitis. In reaching this point of half-return, I can picture myself in an imaginary locker room where Gene Hackman or Rocky Balboa are pumping me up to finish.
You know what I mean, because you just watched both of those clips.
And you’ll need those words or whatever other motivational videos you came across on YouTube, non-joggers, because there’s a long, gradual hill on the back side of mile 3 that nearly took me down. My mouth also began to feel like I’d been munching on a chunk of cotton.
At the 5-mile marker I re-entered the neighborhood where the run began, but noticed another problem. Without going into details, there are certain parts of the body that when met with a consistent rubbing action not experienced in awhile, begin chafing. Not sure if this is a big person problem or non-jogger problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless. I met it with mid-run adjustments of shorts – sometimes by hand, sometimes by virtue of a quick side-hop that kind of resembles a crab motion and fooled absolutely no one.
With a half-mile left I became aware of just how saturated my shirt had become, now a shimmering weight made up of my own sweat. Also, hills that were gently sloping down on my way out of the neighborhood were suddenly pesky demons bent on making me walk. One hill I absolutely had no recollection of, realizing later that was because it was where I’d recovered from the first climb of the run. The good news was this meant I was almost finished.
Getting back to the parking lot, I checked my MapMyRun app and saw I’d covered 6.31 miles in 1:13:46. Walking tenderly, I got to the car, opened it up and tossed in my phone and earbuds before grabbing the bottle containing life-sustaining water. Slowly, I reached a nearby curb and sat on it to drink before sliding the last few inches to the asphalt in a splayed sitting position that screamed exhaustion and you are probably picturing perfectly.
At this point I became very aware I hadn’t packed an extra shirt or towel and that my cloth car seats were going to smell wonderful after coming into contact with my sweat sponge of a shirt. I flirted with the idea of driving home shirtless, but threw that out. Flirted even more with going to a random house and asking to borrow a towel, but decided that would be too awkward even for me. The result was my driving home with a laid-back seat but sitting straight up and forward like I was on a stool and very interested in what my steering wheel smelled like.
Still, I made it. I learned the boogeyman of a mileage isn’t so bad. I finished on the hottest day of the year with air that even in the morning was starting to feel like a quilt fresh from the dryer. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good enough.
There’s at least one trip left for preparation, though. I hear baby powder can help with chafing.