Trail native Craig Cunningham talks about getting a second chance at life
On November 19, 2016, during an American Hockey League game between Tucson Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose, Trail native Craig Cunningham suffered a cardiac arrest before the opening faceoff.
With mother Heather Cunningham watching from the stands, team trainers, medics as well as a group of local firefighter raced to save the Roadrunners’ player.
Thanks to a top cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Zain Khalpey, and Dr. George Haloftis, a physician at St. Mary’s Hospital as well as other doctors, the Trail Minor Hockey product was able to speak today following an almost unbelievable turn of events as documented in the Arizona Daily Star.
Here is the transcript from Wednesday’s media conference posted on the Tucson Roadrunners website.
Craig Cunningham opening statement:
I want to thank everyone, from the fire department to our trainers to the doctors at St. Mary’s, the doctors at Banner, to every single nurse that has helped me so far. If I could actually use some names; from St. Mary’s, Dr. George and Dr. Reza, and from Banner Hospital, Dr. Khalpey, Dr. Hughes, and Dr. Yankis, without those five people, our trainer Deven, and the fire department, I don’t think I’d be here today, so thank you.
Craig’s Mother, Heather Cunningham:
I don’t think I will ever find the words to express how grateful I really am; Craig would not be here with us today if these people had not gone that extra mile in every aspect of this situation. The only reason he survived the original incident was the continued refusal to give up in a seemingly hopeless situation. On behalf of the trainers, the emergency responders, the doctors and nurses, the rest of the recovery has followed the same story. The doctors and nurses have monitored him meticulously and caught all incoming problems in their early stages. They have made difficult decisions without hesitating, and have acted effectively under extreme pressure when they were caught between a rock and a hard place. They have run out of options, and had to create new options by pushing the boundaries of things that they have tried and implemented before. Most of all, they have refused to give up in spite of hopelessness, they have given Craig a chance to recover, and that continues to exceed anything that could have ever been expected. These people are nothing short of a gift to mankind, and I will remember the gift that they have given me every time I look at my son. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
General Manager Doug Soetaert:
On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes and the Tucson Roadrunners organization, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody involved in this incident that occurred. We’re in the hockey industry, which is about teamwork, commitment, and working hard to achieve a goal – and I can tell you, from being a little bit on the inside here, from day one, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life in regards to the teamwork that the doctors at the hospitals utilized to save a young man’s life. It’s been an incredible venture, we’re happy to see Craig sitting here today, and he’s got a full life ahead of him. All we can do is wish him the best and thank everybody for their commitment in saving his life. Thank you so much.
Cunningham, on how he’s feeling day-to-day:
Some days are good, some days are bad; It’s more for me right now, kind of mental. I’ve been here for so long, I look up at the roof everyday, the same roof, but the nurses have been pretty good about taking me outside, giving me an hour outside each day, and that’s made a huge difference, but it’s been a pretty big grind, just being in the same spot the whole time, looking at the same thing every day.
Cunningham, on what it means for his mother to be by his side:
It means a lot obviously, she was down here watching me when it happened, so she’s been here since day one. My whole life, she’s been the backbone of our whole family, and nothing’s changed now, she’s still there for me every day, and I couldn’t be any more thankful.
Cunningham, on if he remembers anything from the night of the incident:
I don’t remember anything from that whole day, actually. The last thing I remember is playing the weekend before.
Cunningham, on the wide-range of support from the hockey community:
It feels good, any time you can get some extra support and some extra help from other people, it makes a big difference. It’s nice to know that people are reaching out to try and help you through tough times.
Cunningham, on the support and response from the Tucson community:
It’s been unbelievable, I can’t say enough about the nurses and doctors around here. The people of Tucson, I’ve been getting cards and stuff from people that I don’t even know, so it’s meant a lot to me, I think Tucson’s a great city, and I wish that I could have enjoyed it a little more than I did.
Cunningham, on how he feels about his future hockey career:
As of right now, I probably think that I’m done, but we’ll see when I get back from rehab how it goes. At the level that I was playing at, I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to playing pro, but I don’t know, anything can happen.