When Dane was attacked by a sudden AVM bleed on his brain, his brother Joel was in Calgary at the Mac’s Cup Major Midget Hockey Tournament. From my perspective as a coach, I can’t fathom being there and having this event going on with a teammate’s family.
I would feel guilty for being there.
This part of our story though completely captures the essence of this horrific event. Surrounded by hockey before, during and after Dane’s incident, the Issigonis family emerges with new hope and new appreciation for the ability to play hockey and the ability to take a breath of air.
Today, the final post, we start with Karen once again putting others before herself.
Karen: I felt sorry for Todd Harkins. We’re pretty good friends with Todd so it was a difficult issue in the first place just between us and him. Then Todd decided not to tell the boys because they had a game an hour after Joel left. And of course everyone was like, where’s Joel? And I don’t know what Todd said at that time, but he said I just thought I’d better not tell them then but then they all knew Dane too, he’s the little brother that’s always around so that makes you realize that this was a competitive situation, a huge tournament that they looked forward to for so long.
And it just didn’t matter to them.
Kelvin: It never outweighs someone’s life or someone’s family.
Karen: Yeah. But the hockey and those families were a huge part of the healing process after they really seemed to get what we were going through even though it was so rare.
Kelvin: I’ll tell you guys, I’ve been in Vancouver for 2 and a half years now, I moved here from Edmonton and the whole North Van community is so tight. I mean, you knew Dane’s ICU nurse and you’re friends with her now.
Karen: Yeah definitely, it’s a hub. I know one of the guys with the brain injury committee which is where Dane went after Sunny Hills, there’s community rehab after, he had a couple of home visits and then he had a visit at the school. He’s from Halifax and he said, I’ve been to North Van now 3 or 4 times, do you know everybody in North Van? And I laughed and told him no, not really. He said that every time he’s come to North Van he’s either seen somebody standing in the StarBucks line up and they’ve got a Dane sticker on them.
Kelvin: Or the bracelet.
Karen: Or the bracelet. Dane was riding the gondola with somebody, skiing, and the person was wearing the bracelet. Dane looks over and the asks, you know Dane? But that, there were people that just knew of the story and it was such a rallying cry for the community. People were just saying, “how’s that boy doing?” that kind of thing. Which is pretty cool.
Troy: It was pretty inspiring. I have to tell you, it blew me away.
Kelvin: The first time I saw that bracelet was when we won the Mac’s cup and Jansen Harkins lifted the cup up over his head, and he’s got this Dane 91 on his wrist. I never really asked, it wasn’t my place.
Troy: Jansen’s one guy, he’s never taken it off. He still has it. Today.
Kelvin: So does Nash Dabb.
Karen: I see it in on them in every picture. Jansen is standing there in his suit with his arm around his someone and there it is, it’s always there.
Kelvin: Dane, what does that make you feel? All these people know who you are, you’ve said you just want to be a normal kid and go on and live your life but what does it feel like when so many people cared about you and still do?
Dane: Yeah, it’s so strange, I’ll be at school, and they’ll be like “whoa, whoa, you’re Dane?” And I’m like yeah how’s it going man? And I just have no clue who they are. I’ll just try to be polite and I’ll keep talking to them and I’ll really have totally no idea who they are and I feel kind of bad.
Troy: A lot of people knew Dane before. Dane was a pretty engaging little guy. All the girls at the front desk knew him and all the staff knew him.
Dane: And talk about the club support too. They had little sticky notes and people could write a little message for me and put it up on the window. I remember my mom said she came here after a couple months and the windows were just covered, you couldn’t see through.
Troy: Just covered.
Karen: Yeah, it’s pretty cool for sure.
Kelvin: One last one for you Dane. This has nothing to do with anything that happened, this is me asking you as a hockey player and as a person that’s just here playing hockey and enjoying life.
There are a lot of kids running around and engaging people like you did when you were little. They’re playing hockey and running around the club and whatnot and these are the kids that they want to be the next Jansen Harkins, the next Joel Issigonis and honestly man, the next Dane Issigonis.
What would you say to all those 6-year old kids if they’d sit still long enough to listen?
Dane: I would tell them never to take life for granted. Yeah, hockey’s important, but it’s never more important than family or it’s never worth giving up on anything over.
Yeah, you might have lost a game but you’ll win the next one.
Karen: That’s his motto!
In life people go this way and somebody else goes that way. The fact that you run into people with the types of stories Dane has or the types of stories everyone has, well, it’s lucky for us we live in a place in which we can talk about it at all.
The heart of every community is the stories we’re built on, the situations that happen and grow in importance with the passage of time.
I want to thank Karen, Troy and Dane Issigonis for sitting down with basically a total stranger and sharing their story with me. It was hard to read for a lot of people, but it was harder to tell.
Life is about the process. Some of us go through difficult processes. The point is to keep going no matter what.
Keep your chin up, everybody. Even if it’s facing the wrong way.
Dane Issigonis: Just keep that attitude: never give up.