It was a cooler than usual day in August in northeast Kansas. Mark and his dad, Fred, had gone out to their cabin on the Kansas River as they often did. The cabin was 84-yearold Fred's home away from home, with a deck, electricity, running water - all the comforts of home with the added attraction of the view, sounds and smells of the river nearby.
Mark and his dad were installing a sprinkler system to water the newly planted grass. Mark had gone to get something when he heard his dad shout, "Whooooa!"
"I knew I'd lost him," he told me later. He ran some 15 feet down the river bank and nearly knocked his dad into the water, trying to get to him. He couldn't tell me whether the electric cord was his or Fred's idea, but after determining that Fred had grabbed some shrubbery which had stopped his fall, Mark climbed back up the bank, and after rejecting two cords, found the one he wanted. He tied it to a tree at the top of the bank, climbed back down, tied the cord under his dad's armpits and then around another tree to stabilize Fred so he, Mark, could climb back up the bank, call 911 and give them directions to the cabin.
It took another 45 minutes for a rescue squad to arrive, move men and ropes down the riverbank to Fred, secure him and then place him in a wire basket and winch him up the bank. Fred was then strapped to a backboard as a precaution. Unfortunately, when they arrived at the VA hospital, another emergency had come in which necessitated Fred's staying strapped down for another three hours.
Some of you know Mark Coates, the hero of this true story. Mark has been an active member of the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired for several years, serves on our board of directors and as vice president and has attended the legislative seminar and presidents' meeting on two occasions.
Mark has been the principal caregiver for his dad for the past several years. He deals with feelings of frustration, concern, love and annoyance in this role, just as some of us have done when watching our own parents become those in need of care. Mark doesn't talk about this task unless he is asked about his dad. He does the job willingly. It strikes me that all of us in ACB have many opportunities to be heroes, if we take advantage of them. The friendly smile and compliment on a job well done by someone struggling with a newly acquired disability; the unobtrusive offer of assistance to another person dealing with the same stresses we do; the calm assurance and high expectations we show blind or visually impaired children; the work at a golf tournament or other fund-raiser; these are all opportunities to be heroes.
While we may not have the need to be as resourcefully heroic as Mark Coates and his father, we can all take advantage of the hidden opportunities to be heroes. And to Mark, we say, "We are proud of you, Mark, for your bravery, your resourcefulness and your patience." And, along with you, we breathe a huge sigh of relief and say, "We love you, Dad!"
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