By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Feb. 25, 2016
The hardest questions are the ones that go unanswered. Questions that you cannot tangibly resolve or justify, whether it is spiritual or life-based. But most unresolved inquiries come down to just one word.
The empty inquisition can drive a person mad, but the acceptance of the unattainable and the personal justification of those unresolved notions help the healing process of an aching mind and heart in the most dire and unimaginable situations. The drive to find our own answer to “Why?” motivates many of us to continue with the journey of life and seek deeper meaning even though the road to get there often is more turbulent than expected.
There’s an older gentlemen that frequents the Corpus Christi IceRays Front Office every morning, letting himself in through the front door, often around sunrise, and strutting with a bounding gait through the office to his corner desk in the back. Papers, business cards, print outs of flyers and contracts, and organizers with white papers bursting from its confines lay askew in a sort of cluttered chaos around an outdated red laptop. The desk is often empty, and having the most direct and closest route to the back door lets him slip through the frame with relative ease to meetings and back. When it comes to work, he’s straight-to-the-point, hard-nosed, and strong.
The southern draw is heavy and elongated. Wide-framed glasses rest on the bridge of his nose, which houses a now graying mustache just below. Gray, wavy hair is slicked back and never out of place. A jolly smile and a hearty laugh permeate when mentions of old drinking stories, “gals” and golf are brought into conversation. There’s rarely a dull moment or a time he publicly shows emotions other than joy.
That wasn’t always the case for Scott McClarren, but a journey from a life-altering experience has taken him into a new direction.
A few years ago on a winter night, Scott and his wife Melodie were getting ready for bed when an unusual phrase came out of Scott’s mouth: call 9-1-1.
“I remember on that night so vividly, Scott had recently been to the doctor,” Melodie recalled. “They always said they couldn’t believe he had never taken any kind of medication. Perfect sugar. Perfect blood pressure. No cholesterol issues. He had always been a college athlete. He played basketball, football, and baseball from the time he was six and never had a health issue in his entire life. I know he’s not an alarmist, so when he said I knew it was something serious.”
After calling for an ambulance, she waited outside and flagged them down to the house, rushing in to rush Scott back to the hospital.
“By the time they got into him he was pretty much gone.”
Pat Dunn, Scott’s best friend, was coming home from a men’s league game and happened to be near the house when his phone rang. Kelli, Scott’s oldest daughter living in Arizona, told him Scott had a heart attack and that her mom needed him. He rushed right to the house. He was there within minutes.
“By the time I got there, I saw the ambulance leaving and Melodie standing in the driveway in a state of panic. We got her into the car and followed the ambulance right to the hospital,” Pat described.
From the time it took to get from the house to the hospital, the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) resorted to using the paddles four times. He went right into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and both Melodie and Pat waited in the emergency room as friends and family members rushed to the clinic and the husband, father and friend was hooked into machines.
From there, there was chaos without answers.
“We sat outside for a while waiting for someone to come out and tell us something,” said Lauren, Scott’s youngest daughter, who was fighting back tears. “They came out and talked to my mom for a while. The next thing I know there was a doctor telling me you need to come into the room and probably tell your dad goodbye.”
She couldn’t hold it in any longer. “I went into the room, and they started taking his jewelry off that he’s worn my entire life, and they handed it to me.”
“I think the most difficult part was when the doctor came out and said, ‘We really have an issue we need to deal with, and that’s the fact that we think there’s no brain activity,’” Melodie stated. “Pat and [good friend] Chris Bentley said, ‘Melodie, I know you’re under a lot of stress, but you have some decisions to make. What are you going to do if there is no brain activity?’ I just kept saying that I’m going to think it’s going to be the best, and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
“What I vividly remember is walking into a situation that there were no answers,” said Leslie, Scott’s second daughter, who joined the family the next morning with her oldest sister, Kelli, from Phoenix, Ariz. “Nobody knew what happened. Nobody knew what went wrong. Nobody could even give us a diagnosis. At one point they were trying to say his heart was so enlarged there was nothing they could do. We knew that wasn’t possible, that there had to be something.”
After the family’s beckoning for another opinion and consulting with a heart specialist and family friend within the next few days, cardiologists discovered the heart attack was brought on not by an enlarged heart but by an aneurysm, which is when part of an artery wall weakens, allowing it to widen abnormally or balloon out. Typically, the largest seen are the size of a grapefruit.
This one was the size of a football.
The ensuing surgery took between 11-13 hours to perform, the time that family and friends had time to reflect on the preceding events and let the information truly sink in. Despite planning for unanticipated situations, the “what if” questions start to roll through and did so a number of times.
“Scott and I are pretty organized people,” said Melodie. “In the circumstance that one of us goes before the other, we have planned well … You do think, ‘Is this going to be the last time I see my spouse alive?’ and ‘Is this the last time my kids are going to have a dad?’”
“I remember that night coming back home and just sitting there thinking to myself that life is so short,” Pat said, tears broke through. “It was like almost losing your mom or dad or brother. He’s my pal. They’re my family here.”
“There was a lot of praying and a lot of good friends that stayed with us morning, noon and night,” Melodie continued, “and we’re fortunate to have a good outcome.”
Initially, there was an eight percent change of coming out the other end successfully. Scott had broken through the percentages, undergoing a successful surgery and leading to recovery from there. Over time, as he recovered and wondered when his next golf outing would be, he was discharged and sent back home to finish his recovery.
“I think just how strong he is as a man definitely pulled him through,” Leslie said. “Facing something like that is insane … This is such an emotional thing to almost lose your dad and have the outcome be so positive.”
Shortly thereafter, life for the McClarren family began another chapter. Both Lauren and Leslie became pregnant and each had a daughter, making Scott and Melodie grandparents for the first time. Papa, as both girls call him, is the target of their affection every time they see him. He also celebrated his 60th birthday in an emotional event for family and for Scott.
“We had a big party,” said Lauren. “All of our friends and family were there. And I remember that being really emotional. Towards the end of the night, when my dad went to cut his cake, I remember him kind of giving a speech, which he doesn’t do, and he talked about how lucky he is to still be alive.”
“He had us all there, and you could just see how happy he was that he lived to see that day and that we could all be there to celebrate his life and him turning 60,” said Leslie. “At the end of the night, we sat around and told stories, and it was the first time we could really revisit what happened without it being too emotional to go there. And then life really changed after that.”
Today, Scott and his family lead a bit of a different lifestyle, keeping a more conscious diet, continuing medication regiments, and keeping active physically—he walks or runs five miles every day whether he’s home or out of town. His work is much less stressed, transitioning from corporate management to becoming the Director of Special Events with the Corpus Christi IceRays while bringing in a large number of new companies. To top it all off, he’s working side-by-side with his best friend, Pat.
“The IceRays have been a part of our lives for so long, and it’s really incredible that he’s working with his best friend, having such a good time doing it, and meeting all of the wonderful people that are involved in this organization, and for that we’re very thankful,” Melodie said.
The journey didn’t come without a lot of self-reflection and unanswered questions, the biggest being what pulled Scott from the brink back to a more healthy life. It’s common in the mental healing process for a heart attack survivor. For years, the question of “why” stirred in his mind and the rationale for what pulled him through.
“We kept saying to him that maybe the why is just to see you have grandkids one day or just to be able to live out the rest of your life in happiness. And it really has turned into that. He doesn’t have the stresses he used to have, he loves his grandkids, and I think he himself would say that he knows his why now.”
If you asked him, he wouldn’t give you a direct answer. He may even leave the room and avoid the situation altogether. Only he knows his true motivations, and that’s the way he prefers it. Tucked in a little corner away from the main traffic of everyday business amidst his brand of personal organized chaos, shielded by smiles, jokes, and those wide-rimmed glasses.
This Saturday night, the IceRays host their first Heart Association Night, an idea that was brought about by Scott himself in an effort to raise awareness for heart health and aid others who have gone through similar situations. After speaking with the American Heart Association – Corpus Christi, the idea was put into motion. When a new theme night is introduced, the most common question becomes: why?
Our “why” has a desk in the back corner of our own office, whether he wants to deflect the attention or not.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.