On Thursday night, Sept. 1, at the Wofford-Tennessee Tech football game in Cookeville, Tenn., Wofford player Michael Roach pitched forward off the bench in the second half and stopped breathing due to a cardiac arrest.
Panic-stricken players called for rescue workers, who quickly cut away his jersey and pads while thousands of fans watched in hushed silence. The players from both teams huddled on the field to pray together, sensing the life-and-death seriousness of the moment. Their brother was struggling for his very life.
The entire stadium could see the rescue workers and doctors as they compressed his chest. Everyone heard the command, “Clear!” before the discharge of the electrical shock that ultimately restarted his heart.
We physicians know that a successful resuscitation occurs in less than 5 percent of athletes who suffer cardiac arrest on the field. Michael Roach survived despite a perfect storm of dehydration, low potassium, an unknown preexisting cardiac anomaly, and an on-field cardiac arrest. What a miracle!
The rest of the game was played in relative silence until news came that Michael was alert and talking and would be all right. Then the stadium erupted in excited applause. After all, what really matters — a football game or a young man’s life?
Sometimes we are confronted with stark contrasts in reality, aren’t we? These contrasts cause us to face up to what really matters in life. Multiple thousands of football fans in the stadium quickly realized that football, which many of us love with a sincere passion, is just an ephemeral fancy compared to the immortal, never-dying soul of a single player.
Many things in life that cause us to get all worked up are really just passing fancies. It’s amazing how a brief brush with sickness or death helps to put these things into proper perspective. So the next time you’re angry at your kids for not cleaning their room or cutting the grass, the next time you and your spouse have a serious spat over something inconsequential, just envision one of you in the ICU requiring serious medical attention. It puts everything into perspective. Maybe these issues don’t require so much drama and emotion after all. Let’s all try to get a grip on what matters most — one of those being family and family relationships.
Having said all of that, I ask: What is the ultimate reality? It’s the question people ask at the funeral of people they don’t know well. Was he a believer? Was he a Christian? That’s the ultimate and final reality.
What matters most? Has he been truly born again into the kingdom of God? That is what really matters most. You know it, and I know it. What if Michael Roach had not made it? That’s what thousands of people would have been asking: “I wonder if he is a Christian. Is he going to heaven or hell?”
That’s the bottom line.
Since this is true, you know you have a lot of personal friends you have never talked to about their spiritual life, to verify their spiritual well-being. What’s holding you back? Are you waiting for them to fall out on the field? You’d better not! That might be too late.
If you are sincere, most people appreciate your inquiring about their physical health and their spiritual health. Jesus said we should “work while it is yet day, for night is coming when no man can work.” In your life, what matters most?
— Robert Jackson is a family practice physician in Chesnee.