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Reprinted from The Charlotte Observer Sunday July 17, 2005

THIS GUY'S A 3-TIME FLIPPIN' HERO

Life, Death and Terry Hanson

 
MICHAEL GORDON
Staff Writer

Terry Hanson saves lives.

One of those belongs to Andy Abdow. He calls Terry a tool for divine intervention. The very idea makes Terry laugh. But facts are facts. Guys keep dropping around him.
Terry helps bring them back.

A buddy goes missing for two days in Kansas. Terry and another friend go out looking. Like a pair of flippin' Colombos, he says with uncensored glee (Terry doesn't censor himself very often).
They find their bud in an overgrown creek bottom, pinned beneath his car. Alive.

Terry has avoided the obituary page himself. Like when the PGA jet goes down, with Terry and other golf-tour bigwigs on board. Hits so hard the flippin' landing gear goes through the wings.
Fuel tanks rupture. Jet skids forever. But there's no fire. Not even a spark. And they walk into their meeting at ESPN on time.

Does he feel lucky?

Wrong question. At 58, Terry Hanson believes more than ever that you make your own luck. So he abides by a code best described as carpe diem on steroids. Go hard. Help out. Do something!

Lately, he's come to appreciate what he doesn't fully understand -- let's call it a divine choreography that somehow puts us in places where we can lend a hand or get the help we need.

Maybe it's in a baseball stadium. Maybe it's the bridge over a weedy Kansas creek.

Six weeks ago, it was the last booth on the left at Red Rocks Cafe in Charlotte. There, Andy Abdow, Terry's longtime friend and client, stopped breathing in midsentence.
He was dark purple when they got him on the floor.

Hanson didn't panic. On the contrary, he'd been training for this moment most of his life.

Taste of death

A few minutes after a heart stops, our internal waste-disposal system shuts down and our bodies fill up with acid.Tastes like hell, Terry Hanson says. More to the point, he knows, it tastes like
death.

In 1970, when Terry was a 23-year-old soccer and baseball coach at St. Benedict's College in Atchison, Kan., he gave mouth-to mouth resuscitation to a retired Army officer turned student who

collapsed near Terry's office.

The officer died. For hours after the CPR, Terry couldn't get rid of the taste.
  
Twenty-one years later. It's 1991. Terry is vice president of communications and broadcasting for the PGA Tour. He makes a last-minute call to a baseball exec for spring-training tickets

near Orlando, Fla.

On the way to his seat he spots the exec. He walks over. A few yards away, 86-year-old Lloyd Cox collapses in an aisle. Terry sees the old man's face. It's the color of a grape.

He starts CPR. God, it's that taste again; the old man is dying.

Terry does CPR for 10 minutes. Chest to mouth, chest to mouth, three presses on the chest for every breath. One gets the blood moving; the other makes sure it

has oxygen to carry to the brain.

Nobody joins in. Sold-out ballpark, and row after row of butts stay in their seats and stare.
Afterward, Terry's hands shake. A paramedic reaching the scene tells onlookers that if Terry had not jumped in, they would have all watched Lloyd Cox die.

Meanwhile, the guy who says he's too dumb to fear failure can't remember being so afraid.
"I hate to put it in baseball terms, but I was 0 for 1."

Make that 1 for 2.

Go-to man

When guys need help they turn to Terry. He runs his own sports and media management business, and often makes calls for friends who need jobs. . But it's more than that.

Relationships, kids, debts -- sometimes it seems the whole world has Terry on speed dial.

"When I get in the weeds," Andy Abdow says, "Terry's my go-to man."

Been that way since Terry was a kid. The Hanson home in East St. Louis was the go-to house. Doors always open. Friends walking in.
He can still tick off their names -- and their phone numbers. Terry Hanson doesn't forget his friends.

So back we go to Atchison, Kan. It's 1972, and Terry and Richard Dyer and Ed Ireland are closing down the Knights of Columbus on a Saturday night. Ed leaves.

Then Ed disappears.

On Monday morning, Terry, Richard and Ed's brother start looking. They stop at every skid mark for 20 miles. Then Terry notices a fragment of wood sheared from

a guardrail post on the bridge over Stranger Creek

They peer over the railing. Nothing but weeds.
Terry, thinking snakes, talks Richard into walking down for a closer look. He goes. Still nothing.
Richard starts the steep walk out. He almost makes it back to the road; he and Terry are seconds away from driving off.

But get this. Richard slips.
He belly-slides back down the flippin' bank. When he stops, he starts shouting.
This time, Richard sees Ed's car. And Ed's beneath it, cushioned by the creek mud, his face just inches above the water.

He opens his eyes when Richard scrambles over, Terry behind him.
"I knew you'd find me," Ed says.

`Oh, my God'

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? What happens May 19 if Terry doesn't invite Andy to lunch? Or if Andy doesn't show up?
But here they are. They order tea and ice water. John Love, who owns the place, joins them.

Andy, a big guy, is sweating. He's felt lousy for weeks. Now he can't seem to cool off.
And just like that, Andy is no longer there.

"He just stops talking," Love says. "His eyes rolled way back in his head. I thought he was joking. But then I said, `Oh, my God.' "

And then Terry comes right over the table.

He and Love and others pull and tug and push until they get Andy's 300 pounds on the floor. Restaurant manager Will O'Donahue handles the chest.

Terry does mouth to mouth; this time, it isn't a stranger.

Terry has always loved Andy for his good heart. Except, it's a bad heart. The taste is back.

Andy still doesn't breathe. Terry and Will don't let up. One, two, three, four, five breaths from Terry; 15 presses from Will. On and on and on.

When Andy is carted away, Terry passes out. After all that effort, there is little hope. Love tells his wife that night: I can't imagine that they can keep him alive.

They do.

Andy is shocked with a defibrillator again and again before his heart stabilizes. Two arteries are opened. He's hospitalized for 15 days.

He remembers nothing about the attack, little about his recovery. But the recovery is complete.

"I'm still amazed," Love says.

"You know what this is," Terry tells Andy when the two again share the very same booth. "This is a mulligan on life."

Then Terry tells Andy: If you ever need my mouth again, send champagne and flowers.

Opportunity

Terry has been talking for two hours, and suddenly all those brushes with death seem to hit him. He seems spooked.
He wants something made clear. None of this involves any extraordinary act of gallantry.

"Gallant my a--," he says. "I just reacted. I was first through the door, and I guess first counts for something."

To Terry Hanson, the greatest tragedy of all is the absence of opportunity. His life, he says, has been full of opportunity -- to take risks and pursue career dreams,

to meet people and make friends. The chance -- no, the desire -- to help them when he can.

His glimpses of death have taught him this much: Life is fragile, and only a start.

"I've tried to live a good life for that reason, and there damn well better be something else."

Or, he says, he'll be flippin' ticked off.

 

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