Taste of deathA 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
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.
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
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.
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
Terry, thinking snakes, talks Richard into walking down for a closer look. He goes. Still nothing.
starts the steep walk out. He almost makes it back to the road; he and Terry are seconds away from driving off.
get this. Richard slips.
He belly-slides back down the flippin' bank. When he stops, he starts shouting.
Richard sees Ed's car. And Ed's beneath it, cushioned by the creek mud, his face just inches above the water.
opens his eyes when Richard scrambles over, Terry behind him.
"I knew you'd find me," Ed says.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it? What happens May 19 if Terry doesn't invite Andy to lunch? Or if Andy doesn't
But here they are. They order tea and ice water. John Love, who owns the place, joins them.
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
"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
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
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.
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.
has been talking for two hours, and suddenly all those brushes with death seem to hit him. He seems spooked.
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."
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.