Where do I start?
Some people might have heard about Dane Issigonis before. Some people, like me, are new to the club in the past couple years and are in the dark.
Fortunately, Dane can teach us how to escape when we find ourselves in darkness.
You know when you hear about a tragic event happening to someone close to someone you know? A life-altering, mind-bending event that changes the way that person looks at the world?
Sometimes our heart aches just thinking about the hellacious circumstances people are pulled through. The worst part of those stories is that more often than not the characters get stuck in the mud without the strength or the support they need to get out.
In this case, with this young man, the strength came from within. On Christmas Day four years ago, Dane got lost.
Not outside or down the street or even at a grocery store or other public place.
Dane got lost inside his own mind, beneath the surface of the mud with no visible way out.
Fortunately for Dane, his parents, Karen and Troy, didn’t need Dane to see them, they just needed Dane to hear them.
And Dane took care of the rest.
This is the first part of a multi-part interview with the Issigonis family. Karen, Troy and Dane are passionate, intelligent and articulate people - I learned that right away. The emotion of the situation, they have a grip on it but the emotion floods back as soon as they embrace telling the story for what must be the thousandth time. With that in mind, the interview is hardly edited. I forgot I was even conducting an interview, so I thought it would be dishonest to fix all the ums, likes and for-sures. My stammering is embarrassing at times, but I’m leaving it anyways. I hope you enjoy the series, and I hope the story leaves as large an impression on your heart as it did on mine.
Karen Issigonis: We’ve been kind of out of the loop the last while so we were thinking, I mean we don’t really want to admit it but there’s so many new people at the club these days too, right?
Kelvin: For sure, there’s always new people and it’s just, a lot of the stuff that people, I mean stories and whatnot of the past is all just word of mouth, right? That’s part of what they’ve hired me to do is to get the stories of people who might be front and centre now, and especially the inspirational people that are around here. That doesn't mean we should forget the past.
Karen: Sure, yeah for sure.
Kelvin: So I was actually talking with Clint, Clint Thornton. Apparently Clint was in Calgary with the Vancouver Canadians and your older son was playing for the Giants when everything happened.
Troy Issigonis: Yeah.
Karen: That day.
Kelvin: Yeah, I can’t even, I mean I’ve been in the Mac’s three times as a coach and twice as a player so anyway, not, I mean . . .
Troy: A friend of mine went out and got him ('him' being Dane’s older brother, Joel - ed.) and he, I phoned him and we were in the hospital, and it was about 9 a.m. Dane and I got there at 6, we checked in at 6:09 and at 6:15 he stopped breathing. They had him on a bag until he went into surgery about 9, about 8:55 and then at 9 o’clock a social worker came in and said, you know, “is all your family here?” And Joel of course was in Calgary. We said, “no, one of our sons is in Calgary playing hockey”. She’s like, “you need to have all your family here”.
Kelvin: Yeah it’s, and I can’t even . . .
Troy: So I phoned a friend, and he was like, “well how about if I do this”, he was reluctant to up and fly, you know, fly to Calgary. And luckily a friend of his owned Cal Tire. Cal Tire out of Vernon has a private jet and they actually donate it for medical emergencies.
Troy: Yeah. So he took their private jet and flew to Calgary to pick up Joel, just picked him up at the airport, didn’t even get any of his hockey gear or anything.
Kelvin: No, we’ll deal with that later, right?
Troy: Right. He turned around, they flew him to Vancouver and they beat us to Children’s. We got into Children’s at about 1:30, they beat us, they were there waiting for us.
Kelvin: Wow. So this was how many years ago now?
Karen: 2010. So it will be four years this winter. (This interview was conducted a couple weeks before christmas, 2014 -ed)
Kelvin: Four years. So Dane, let’s get into it then. Thanks for coming down and talking with me. All of you, honestly. Dane, I have some questions for you, but I want everyone to like feel free to chime in. How old were you when you started playing hockey?
Dane: Um, like. . .
Troy: 3 or 4.
Kelvin: 3 or 4. So early days right?
Troy: He started early cookies.
Kelvin: Like a lot of kids?
Kelvin: What was it that drew you? Did you just start playing because your brother or…?
Dane: Obviously as a little brother you want to do whatever your big brothers are doing. So I was kind of always around the rink with my knee hockey stick waiting to play.
Kelvin: Running around playing man-hunt and terrorizing everybody?
Dane: Haha yeah. And then at 3, my dad got me my first pair of skates and I was off to the races from there.
Kelvin: Right, and you’ve been a hockey player ever since. Karen and Troy, what was Dane like? And Dane, what do you remember about being a little kid at the rink? I’ll let you answer this and then your parents can answer with the truth.
Dane: Haha alright.
Kelvin: What were you like when you first started playing when you were in kindergarten, grade one? What kind of hockey player, what kind of kid were you?
Dane: I don’t like to pat myself on the back but I think I played like a Pavel Datsyuk. Like, his hands and being really quick, not fast just with skating, but quick mentally. I was quick back then but that was because I had skated before. And yeah I just I had really good hand-eye coordination so I could make passes.
Kelvin: So that’s you as a hockey player, intelligent and quick. What about as a person? What about as a kid? Did you behave or did you…?
Dane: Yeah I was pretty good. I wasn’t like terrorizing, well maybe I was terrorizing the club a bit but I would always try to kind of be on my best behaviour.
Kelvin: Good answer. Parents, now is your chance to refute that.
Karen: Yeah that’s true. He was always a good kid, always had a bit of a sharp sense of humour for a little guy and being the youngest of three naturally you’re wired a little differently but still, he was good. Nice.
Kelvin: Oh yeah, 3 brothers, you’re in tough. I had two older sisters plus a younger one so I grew up in a different, it was just much different than that.
Troy: He was really mature for his age. A lot of my friends called him “Stewey” off of Family Guy. They always got the sense that he was mature beyond . . .
Kelvin: The wheels were always turning behind the eyes?
Troy: Yeah, yeah.
Karen: I always remember his teacher in grade 2. She said she shared the class with a teacher’s aid and she told us once that they would crack jokes to each other, sometimes about kids or whatever was going on in the class and kind of talk over everybody’s head except for they’d see Dane smiling, because he knew exactly what was going on, he would get their humour. That was part of being around adults I guess.
Kelvin: Those are some of the funnest kids to coach. I tell pretty dumb and sarcastic jokes to kids. You tell them and you kind of look and the one kid is like holding his mouth, ”I know what you are talking about”.
Karen: “I actually got that”!
Kelvin: Yeah, yeah. That’s good. Coaches like that kind of player. Teachers? I’m not so sure.
It was amazing how quickly the Issigonis family could switch gears from the weight of Dane’s incident to cracking wise about jokes told in school. In every way that was important, Dane was just a normal kid.
And he still is. He also just happens to posses the strength to overcome sudden life-threatening health conditions.
More next week in Part 2 on Dane’s passion for hockey and his family’s passion for life.