Sunday, November 19, 2000

From loss, hope

Dad asks for better crisis plan

        Patrick Mason, just two weeks shy of his second birthday, had a nearly perfect day on the eve of his death. Beautiful fall weather. A picnic, a swing set, a hayride. It was, in fact, another full day in a very blessed little life.

        Born in England, he saw the hills of Ireland and the beaches of Spain. When his father, an executive with Hasbro, moved here, to Mount Lookout, Patrick began the process of becoming thoroughly Cincinnati-ized. LaRosa's pizza. The painted pig pictures in the morning newspaper. A joy, people said. Even those who were not related to him. Blue eyes, fine blond hair, an exceptionally sunny smile.

        On the afternoon of Oct. 22, Patrick stopped breathing. His parents, Mike and Laura, don't know why.

        One theory is some sort of congenital heart problem. Tests still are being performed. But nearly four weeks later, nobody knows.

A father's anguish
               Everyone grieves in different ways. Mike's way is to try to figure out a larger why, a reason. Something to help him look beyond Patrick's empty red wagon.

        He has one idea.

        Mike is thinking maybe he could help with an emergency plan to get people out of our enormous new sports arenas. He would not, he says, want anybody else to go through what he did on the day Patrick died.

        It was the fourth quarter of the Bengals' first win of the season. Mike heard his name on the loudspeaker. Frantically, as instructed, he dialed his mother-in-law.

        Pat Trimpe told him, “Mike, you've got to get to Children's Hospital. Patrick stopped breathing.” Mike could hear the panic in her voice. The nightmare began.

        Mike had taken a bus to the game. He doesn't own a cell phone. Someone pointed him toward Mehring Way, saying he might get a cab there. He started running.

        No cabs. He began stopping people, asking for help, “anybody who looked nice.” No help. None. Finally, he ran into a Cincinnati police officer outside the stadium. “She said, "Hold on. We'll get you a taxi.” By then, 30 endless minutes had passed.

No one to blame
               When he arrived at the hospital, Patrick was dead. “I have put it all together. Over and over. I could not have been there in time to see my son alive. But I could have been with Laura 15 minutes sooner.”

        He doesn't blame anybody. Mike simply thinks his emergency is not unique. And he says maybe he can get somebody's attention, encourage officials to put together some sort of procedure, a plan.

        Paul Brown Stadium is a very big place. So, too, will be the baseball park. If you fall and break your leg when you're inside, you will be whisked off to an ambulance. They know how to do this. So Mike Mason thinks it would not be an elaborate inconvenience to have a system to get somebody out of the building and into a cab.

        Suzanne Burke, the county's director of administrative services, including services at the stadium, promises to “investigate some alternatives, come up with some suggestions.” She says it shouldn't be too complicated, sounding very positive.

        Just what this grieving father needs to hear. “I will never have Patrick again. Never hold him. But I ask myself if some good can come of his death.”

        Otherwise, Mike Mason will never know why.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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