The instant Candlestick went dark for John Burgess
BY CHRIS SMITH/The Press Democrat
Invited by a buddy to last weekend’s big 49ers/Packers game, I was one of some thousands of fans curious and concerned about a flurry of paramedic activity just behind one of the end zones in the fourth quarter.
There hadn’t been an injury on the field, so who was loaded into the ambulance that a policeman on a light-flashing motorcycle led out of the stadium?
I could barely believe it minutes later when a phone call from The Press Democrat newsroom informed me it was my friend John Burgess, the world-class PD photographer.
John had suffered a heart attack and crumpled while shooting photos from the goal line.
Think of that. If it had to happen, could he possibly have been in a better spot? Within seconds, the emergency medical personnel on the sidelines were working on him, trying to restore his heartbeat and breathing.
John, an oft-honored creative genius who loves sports photography and in addition to his PD work has shot more than 300 assignments for Sports Illustrated, was revived by ambulance paramedics who shocked him back to life prior to their arrival at San Francisco General Hospital.
“The first person I remember seeing,” he told me Wednesday in an e-mail, “was Robert Beck, a photographer from Sports Illustrated who I worked with on the golf tour for the magazine and have known for 20 years.”
Beck left the game because he didn’t want John to be alone at the hospital, and he knew it would take some time for John’s wife, the PD’s Mary Callahan Burgess, to get there from Santa Rosa.
“He held my hand and stroked my head until the police shut down the ER (emergency room) because of gunshot wounds,” John said. “I felt like I was in a war zone.”
Today he’s feeling hugely grateful to Beck, the paramedics, the motorcycle cop who rode escort to the hospital and a heap of SF General doctors and nurses — some of whom are calling him a miracle boy because he’s come through so extremely well.
John will have bypass surgery before he comes home to his family and begins to plot a return to shooting magic with those Canons of his.