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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Joe the Jogger

Live your life and be open to its possibilities...

That was my message today, Thanks to Dr. Joe Gibson. 

December 29, Jake's 13th birthday.  Last Tuesday the four of us accompanied by 2 of Jake's buddies celebrated at PF Chang's. Driving home on Ranger Road we encountered a grisly scene.  A car was stopped and straddled the yellow line as the driver shone his cell phone light onto to what appeared to be somebody down on the side of the road.  We pulled over and discovered that a jogger had been hit in the bike lane and lay completely motionless on the pavement.  His wife, who had been jogging at his side, was crying inconsolably and the teenager who hit him was practically hysterical.  It was hard to tell if the victim had any pulse and from the looks of it, he was in very bad shape.  A gaping wound on his ankle caught my eye as I noticed the man had completely come out of his running shoes which were strewn in the bushes and in the middle of the road.  There was blood coming from his mouth and I could not see his chest moving whatsoever.  It's hard to know what to do at a time like this.  I whispered the beginning of an Our Father.

I hugged his wife and asked her name.  Amidst sobs, she answered "Jennifer". I asked what her husband's name was to which she answered "Joe".  I tried to ask some basic questions to buy some time until the emergency crew arrived.  I learned that they were both running in the bike lane when Joe was hit. They had been married almost 9 years.  We knelt down and talked to Joe and asked him to stay with us.  A very long 20 or so minutes later, paramedics arrived on the scene.  Seeing Joe's face, I was becoming more aware that this man may have died.  His eyes were half closed and there was absolutely no movement.  My oldest son was nearby. He tried to see if he could get a pulse from Joe.  He was young.  38 years old.  A good looking guy who I later learned was a tri-athlete training for the Rock N Roll Marathon.  Paramedics were giving chest compressions; wailing from both Jennifer and the teen was now pronounced. It was an unforgettable scene. 

Jennifer didn't have her cell phone.  We talked about getting it from the house but the fire truck was ready to roll and take her down to John C. Lincoln Trauma Center. There wasn't time for anything else.  I told her to go with her husband and I gave my telephone number to fireman to give to her. I told her to pray and I would pray too.

Cake and ice cream did not go down so well at the house.  I phoned the hospital about an hour after the accident.  Word from the RN came in a call or so later and I was asked to go to Jennifer and Joe's condo to retrieve Jennifer's cell phone.  Karsten and I went quickly.  I grabbed a set of rosary beads to pray on as we traveled. 

We got down to the hospital as quickly as we could.  My son and I had a great conversation about life, death, Joe and the medical profession where I learned that my son has a possible interest in working in this kind of profession.  This was the first time I had ever heard him express this kind of interest.  Down at the hospital, our visit was very brief.  Joe was hanging on but he was in bad shape.  Jennifer, sitting in a quite room with friends, gave me a huge hug.  In the light, I could see she is a beautiful woman with long blonde hair. Still in running attire, she was grateful for the phone and her purse that I had also found in her condo.  I gave her the rosary beads.  Her friend accompanied me to the hallway where he gave me his card.  He is an emergency room physician with Joe at their company (Emergency Physician Services) run out of Banner Good Samaritan Hospital.  We offered our sympathies and were on our way. 

Next morning, Wedesday, the report wasn't good.  Joe was pronounced brain dead and they were keeping him on life support until his parents arrived from visiting family in Germany. 

I got a call from Jennifer on Sunday. I was humbled that she called me. She told me that Joe died on December 30 after his parents said goodbye.  She told me that Joe was a beautiful soul and everyone who knew him, loved him.  She invited me and my family to the funeral which was today.  A packed house, I've never been so moved by a memorial service as I was at today's.  Joe the Jogger was a superhero of sorts and the testimonies of his family and friends was an enormous witness to this.  He loved to help people.  He was there for people.  Many people referred to Joe as their 'best friend'. He was a patriot.  He served our country in the U.S. Navy for 3 years.  He sacrificed for others.  He was an adventurer and he loved to live life to its fullest.  As his father so eloquently said of him: "Joe remained open to all of life's possibilities.  He left behind 2 parents, a brother, 2 sisters, neices and a nephew,aunts and uncles, friends, colleagues and patients.  And Jennifer.  His best, best friend.

I didn't know Dr. Joe Gibson in this life, but I have this pleasant, tranquil feeling that I will know him in the next one. I am struck by the fact that Joe may be acquainting himself with all of the folks that he has helped during his medical practice.  I am also humbled by all of the crossing, overlapping and intersections that bring people together.  There simply are no such things as coincidences.  On the night he died, Joe saved the lives of 4 other people via organ donation. 

Was it chance to be driving down this road?  No.  I think we were supposed to be there.  What a sacred, holy place to be.

Joe died as he lived.  Enjoying an evening run with his wife at his side.  He probaby didn't even know what hit him.  I will take the lesson of his life though gratefully and apply it to my own...Live your life (emphasis on the live part!) and be open to its possibilities.

Thanks Dr. Joe Gibson, I wish I would have known you during your life.  I am grateful for the fragment that I was able to participate in. May you rest in peace and may the angels lead you to paradise.

Joe Gibson, RIP
July 11, 1971-December 30, 2009


  1. Thank -you, Dr Gibson was my friend and co worker he will always be my SUPERHERO!!

  2. He was indeed a very special person, he is greatly missed by his Good Sam family!

  3. Beautifully said and thank you for sharing your story with us. He will be sorely missed by his family, colleagues, and friends.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. Joe you're a superhero

  5. Joe was an amazing man, truly the best of us. He was the kind of man I hoped my son would grow up to be, and the kind of husband I hoped my daughter would marry.

    My wife, Sue, and I knew Joe and Jennifer when he was in the Navy. Everyone who knew him admired him and loved him.

    Last year, I happened to meet someone who turned out to be a mutual friend from New York City. Joe was his role model, teacher, and friend. Which proves that Joe has always touched everyone he met in a deep and important way.

    He will always be missed, and treasured in our hearts.

    John and Sue Ringquist

  6. You are so right, there is no such thing as a coincidence. God puts us in certain places at certain times. It is our choice what we do with these opportunities. Thank you so much for doing the right thing at that moment and helping this couple. Joe the Jogger was my cousin. I live in Ohio and I have not seen Joe in years. Most of my memories of Joe are as a young child. I remember Joe stealing the stage in a light pink tuxedo jacket as he did a break dance at his sister Jannet’s wedding in the early 1980’s. I feel like I have gotten to know him as an adult over the past week as I have listened to others tell there heartwarming stories about him.

  7. thank you for taking the time to post this heartbreaking story. i consider joe and jennifer to be friends of mine. we were neighbors in NYC; when joe was there doing his medical residency. joe was an incredible person, so full of life, so happy, always smiling, friendly and heading out the door to prepare for the next tri-athalon! he was a rare breed, everyone loved joe, we will miss him. taken too soon - he will reamin in our hearts. joe was one of those special people who come into your life and leaves a lasting-impression.

    jennifer, joe's wife, is an incredible person wihtin her own right. jen is a warm, welcoming, nice and caring person, a wise soul. they were the perfect pair.. and everyone should be so lucky to find in their partner what jen and joe found in eachother. my thoughts and prayers are with jennifer -- and ask everyone to send jennifer great strength during this most difficult time in her life.
    - Raquel Lentnek

  8. Thank you for this story. The staff from the emergency room where Joe spent many long nights caring and tending to the sick miss him greatly. From his personal famiy to his work family...we all miss him. May God comfort him. Heaven truly has an angel.

  9. Joe was a med school classmate of mine and one of the few truly remarkable people I have ever met. I have only recently learned of his passing and am deeply saddened. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family. I have no doubt that he became an exceptional physician, and I know he was an exceptional man.