Written in 2008

This is the story of two mothers.

Both have sons who live and breathe hockey and aspire to reach that elite level- the NHL. Both boys enter the NHL draft. One gets picked to be the New York Rangers top prospect. The other learns he has a heart problem that could cause a sudden and fatal heart attack. That boy gives up his NHL dreams, but receives a surprise. The new owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning uses his last draft pick, to select this boy and help fulfill a tiny bit of that dream, even if only in a symbolic way. The boy with the heart problem goes to college and tries to adjust to a life of hockey– without being able to play.

The mother of the boy diagnosed with the heart problem agonizes for him, but thanks her lucky stars that he is alive. 19 year old David Carle has a full-ride scholarship to the University of Denver. Even though he can never play hockey again, he will help the team on the sidelines. He will live the NHL dream through his older brother Matt, who now plays for the team that drafted David, the Tampa Bay Lightning. However unhappy he may be, however well he may be adjusting to his new life, David is alive, his heart keeping the beat.

The mother of the boy picked by the Rangers probably beamed with pride at the thought that her boy will one day leave Siberia and live the NHL dream in America, with one of the oldest and best teams in the league. In the meantime, he was honing his skills in the Kontinental Hockey League, as a member of the Avangard Omsk. His skill already rivaled countrymen Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Bure, all NHL stars. He was maturing under the tutelage of former NHL great Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers and their fans could not wait until this boy was ready to take the Big Apple by storm. The future looked bright for 19 year old Alexei Cherepanov.

 

That bright future imploded in crushing heartbreak this week, when Alexei collapsed during a game and died. It turns out, he suffered from a condition that kept blood from reaching his heart and organs. He suffered an apparent heart attack while sitting on the bench next to Jagr, talking about a missed scoring opportunity. He died at the hospital.

Now, there are reports that an ambulance stationed at the arena left before the game was over and had to be called back. It did not return until 25 minutes after Alexei collapsed. There are reports that emergency workers did not have a defibrillator on hand to shock his heart back into action. Some Russian lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation.

None of this takes away from the fact that a mother has lost her son.
No criminal investigation will bring him back.
No amount of finger pointing will ease the pain in her own heart, as she faces the crushing task of laying her boy and his dreams to rest forever.

My heart goes out to both of these mothers.
I, too, have a son. He has no heart problems. He does not play hockey.
But I worry about his health and safety just the same.

In that way, I am no different from David or Alexei’s mothers, or anyone else with a son or daughter.
I don’t have to explain, and neither do they.
We already know.
We are Mothers.

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