He’s hoping for the best for burn victims

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last week, I proudly cheered for Virginia Commonwealth University as the men’s basketball team competed, quite unexpectedly, for a national championship.

This week, as will be the case for many weeks to come, I find myself rooting for VCU once more, again quite unexpectedly. But this time a different team, one who is committed to a calling infinitely more significant than basketball, has my full attention and undying allegiance.

This team’s journey won’t be chronicled on television in front of millions of screaming fans, while panels of experts dissect their performances on the sports highlight programs. We won’t be following their progress on the front page of the sports section, and there will certainly be no commemorative T-shirts.

Yet I would gladly and willingly trade VCU’s recent success in basketball, or for that matter any chance at athletic glory past, present or future, for success in the operating rooms and post-operative treatment units at VCU Medical Center’s Evans-Haynes Burn Center.

The team of physicians working in the burn unit at VCU’s new Critical Care Hospital is providing state-of-the-art, cutting-edge treatment for wounds too severe to describe and suffering that is impossible to comprehend. The reward for victory will be far greater than any trophy. I hope and pray hourly for their success.

The four young men involved in that horrific accident deep in the woods south of Emporia on Thursday are all being cared for at Evans-Haynes. The victims have already survived seemingly insurmountable odds.

The grace of God and the internal fortitude of the victims deserve a fair amount of the credit. The skill and expertise of the first responders and the medical professionals assigned to their ongoing care are owed the rest.

I am rooting like crazy for this team of doctors and nurses at VCU, because what is at stake is much greater than the opportunity to play in yet one more game. In their care are four brothers, husbands, fathers, sons and friends.

Like many of you, I have known one of the victims for a number of years. We have sent children to school together, played golf together and our families have enjoyed more than three decades of friendship together.

In this community, our community, we are blessed that the lines differentiating friends from family are often indistinguishable. In times like this, those lines completely vanish.

This community has certainly seen more than its fair share of tragedy in recent years, yet it is always an awesome sight to witness how quickly we circle the wagons.

To the families of Jeremy, Lon, Trent and Gary, I hope you can find strength and a small amount of comfort knowing that the thoughts and prayers of an entire community are constantly with you. We have your back on this one, just like we always do.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.