Chicago Warriors: Mac’s In Trouble

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We rolled through the rest of the shift without much excitement. We spotted a couple of curfew violators trying to make it home through the alleys before any cops spotted them. We wrote them up and brought them home, but their parents seemed already used to the drill and didn't seem to be very disturbed about their sons being brought home by the cops, other than having to get out of bed to answer the door. We'd likely be seeing more of their boys in the months and years ahead.

After that we prowled a few alleys along Cicero Avenue and recovered a hot car that had been partially stripped. It was an SUV sitting on cinder blocks in the middle of the alley. It probably had the fancy spinner type wheels and premium tires that many of the young kids love to put on their vehicles. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly the thieves are able to get the wheels off without being detected. If they ever thought about working legitimately, they probably had a job waiting for them in the pits at NASCAR.

We wrote a couple of tickets-one red light violator, the other an illegal u-turn. We finished up around the airport, watching throngs of still sleepy commuters park their cars and rush to catch the trains heading downtown. I guess that subconsciously I was hoping to spot Beth possibly leaving for work early, but that didn't happen. We headed back to the station, checked out with the sector sergeant, and said our goodbyes.

On the ride home I reflected on my first night back without Joe. Although tinged with some sadness and guilt, I was at least sure that this was where I needed to be-police work. It was different to be sure, working with Marilyn. She was proving to be another wise decision by friend Mac, and it proved to me that my desire for the job was still there. For the near future at least, my career would be something that gave me satisfaction and direction. I could depend on it to give me strength and motivation. My drive to help people, to save them from evil, was still strong. Now I needed to focus on my personal life. Was I going to be able to save my marriage, or had it gone so far off the track that fixing it was not possible?

I pulled into the driveway, only to be surprised by Beth's car parked inside the garage. "What's all this about?" I wondered aloud. I grabbed my gear and walked into the kitchen through the garage door.

"Hi Pete," she said somewhat taken aback. "I forgot a couple of things that I needed for work, so I thought that I would stop by on my way to pick them up. I hope you don't mind. I was just about to leave; I didn't expect to see you."

"You made coffee..."
"Yeah, well...I needed some. You know my folks don't drink it so there's none around the house. Besides, I thought that maybe you might like a cup when you got home."
This all came out of left field. The last thing I expected was to see Beth...here in our house... I was thrown off guard. And she made me coffee...

"Well, thank you for thinking of me. How are your folks?"
"They're upset and confused about what's going on. I told them everything; told them it was my fault and that we needed some time apart to see where we're at. Lots of crying, you know they're old school, they don't understand separations... How was your first night back?"
"It was okay Beth. I think that I can pick up the pieces and move forward."

"Good, I'm happy for you. I'm afraid that I have to leave now before I miss the train. Good bye Pete."
She walked past me to the door and I saw the tears in her eyes. She was hurting. I heard the engine start and stepped out to watch her pull away. Why Lord, why? How could this have happened to us? Wasn't it enough that you took Joe from me... now Beth? What do you want from me...help me, please! I resisted the urge to wave to her, and then regretted it. Ego...pride, sins that I still haven't conquered.

I felt totally exhausted now and stripped off my clothes. I fell into bed, forgetting all of my plans to work out and get some other things done. All I could think about was Beth and how we used to be. How could that have fallen apart? Was I so blind to everything that I couldn't have prevented it from happening? Was any of her infidelity my fault? I thought that I had been a good husband, but apparently I was missing something. A million questions invaded my head. I needed to find out what was wrong with me, but right now I was just too tired to do anything but sleep.

A few hours later I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. I groggily reached over to the night stand to grab it and see who was interfering with my sleep.

"Hello."

"Pete?"

"Yes, this is Pete, who's calling?"

"Pete, this is Shirley. Mac's in trouble," she said, her voice trembling, "we're at the ER at Christ Hospital. Can you please come...now? I'm afraid for him Pete; he's had a heart attack."

"Oh my God, Shirley, yes, I'll be there as quickly as I can."

I hung up the phone and threw on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Christ Hospital wasn't far away, 95th and Pulaski, and I could be there in ten minutes. I jumped into my truck and headed that way, praying that Mac would be okay.
I ran into the ER to find Shirley and the grandkids seated in the waiting room. She got to her feet when she spotted me and I immediately went to her and held her.

"Oh Pete, it was so quick," she sobbed. "One minute we were seated at the table with the babies for lunch, and the next thing I knew Mac was on the floor, unconscious. I called 911 right away. As soon as they got there they checked his heart and put the paddles to his chest. I couldn't watch, and I didn't want the babies to see..."
"How long have you been here?"

"About thirty minutes. I called our daughter; she's on the way. And I told her to call Fr. Bill from our church. Oh Lord...our poor grandbabies are so scared, they don't know what's going on."

I looked at the two little towheads huddled together in one chair, their arms around each other-they didn't have a clue about anything except that their Papa was sick.
"Shirley, has anyone come out to give you an update?"

"No Pete, that's what worries me."

"Okay, you take care of the two little ones. I'm going to go ask some questions and see what I can find out. We bring injured folks here all the time; chances are I may know someone on duty here now."

"You know Pete...it's funny...Mac cares so much about others, including you, that I think the events in the past few weeks have put too much of a strain on his heart."
"Shirley, Mac is one of the finest men I've ever know. Both of you are like family to me," I said as my eyes started to well up with tears. "He's one of the big reasons that I'm the man that I am today."

I walked toward the nurse's station to find out what I could. The nurse didn't look familiar to me, but I needed information quickly so I decided to ID myself.

"Ma'am, I'm Officer Shannon from the 8th District," I said as I showed her my Star. "Sgt. McNamara and I work together, is there any update on his condition? How is he doing?"

"Well officer, his vitals don't look real good at this point. Dr. Wolanska is the ER doctor on duty today. If you want to wait around here until she comes out, you can ask her yourself."

"Thanks, I'll do that."

I waited for about fifteen minutes, praying the entire time. Finally the doctor came out of the room and headed toward the nurses' station with Mac's chart.

"Dr. Wolanska, I'm Officer Pete Shannon...I work with Sgt. McNamara. Can you tell me how he's doing?"
"Are there any family members here?" she asked.
"His wife is in the waiting room with their two little grandbabies."

She was scribbling something on the chart, and when she finished she looked up at me. "Your friend has suffered a serious heart attack. The paramedics didn't have a pulse when they arrived on the scene. They were finally able to revive him after several minutes, but on the way here his heart stopped twice. He's weak and barely holding on."
It was worse than I thought. Was it possible that Mac wouldn't make it? No, I couldn't think that way-Mac was strong, he was a Viet Nam vet and a warrior on the streets of Chicago. It would take more than a heart attack to kill Mac.

"Can I go in and see him?"
"Let me suggest something," the doctor said. "I can't say with any certainty that he will survive this episode. If you would like to bring his wife in here right now, I think that would be appropriate."

I hurried back out to the waiting room and saw that Mac's daughter had arrived along with Father Bill Tindall, their pastor.

"Pete, what did you find out?" Shirley was very upset now, probably because she had relinquished control of the little ones to their mother. Caring for them had at least diverted some of her concern about Mac. She was now feeling the full impact of what had happened to her husband and best friend.

"Shirley, we need to go in there right now and see him. The doctor said that he's in bad shape, his heart stopped several times."

After hearing this Shirley grew weak and needed support from Fr. Bill. We got on either side of her and escorted her into the cubicle where Mac was at. He appeared to be semi-conscious and was tethered to several machines that were monitoring his vitals and giving him fluids.

She went up to the side of the bed and began stroking Mac's forehead..."Mac honey, it's me Shirl, can you hear me dear? You're going to be okay, everything will be fine."
The nurse spoke up, "Mrs. McNamara, he may not be able to hear or understand you. He has been drifting in and out of consciousness."

Shirley tried a couple more times to reach him, but Mac was unresponsive. Fr. Bill put on his stole and prepared to administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. He made the Sign of the Cross with blessed water, reminding us of our baptismal promise to die with Christ so that we might rise to new life with Him. He then read from Scripture and anointed Mac's head and hands with oil while he prayed over him. Fr. Bill then had all of us join him in praying the Lord's Prayer, and ended by blessing all of us.

The priest turned to Shirley, "Mac has been a good steward of the faith, and he has truly been a child of God. His life is now in the hands of the Almighty; may His will be done."

We stayed for several more minutes before the doctor had us return to the waiting room. The minutes turned into hours, and eventually the waiting room turned into a gathering of family and friends that soon overflowed into the adjoining corridors. I slipped out to the chapel to lift up my own prayer for my dear friend. I knelt down and focused on the crucifix...Dear Lord, I know that I have doubted your sovereignty lately. I've been questioning your authority and your will, focusing on what I want, rather than what you expect of me. I humbly come to you now as your child, asking for forgiveness and imploring you to show mercy on my friend Mac. I pray that you will make Mac well again, so that he can give you praise and glory in all that he does.

I finished at the chapel and went outside for some fresh air. I looked across the parking lot and saw Marilyn heading my way. She came up to me and hugged me..."Pete, it's terrible. How is he doing?"

I was surprised that she reacted so strongly, but Mac had that type of effect on everyone that knew him. "He's not good Bens, the doctor was not optimistic about his condition."

"I don't know him well, certainly not as well as you do Pete, but just in the short time that I've known him I've seen qualities in him that I admire and want for myself. He is like a father figure, a protector to many of us on the shift; he's fair yet firm, and he knows the job inside and out."

As we turned to walk back toward the ER, I saw Joe's wife, Susan, standing at the door. My wife Beth was with her.

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John Wills spent 2 years in the U.S. Army before serving 12 years with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). He left the CPD to become an FBI Special Agent, working organized crime, violent crime, and drugs.  John Wills is an author of Chicago Warriors: Midnight Battles in the Windy City published by TotalRecallPress.com

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