On November 5, Alan Murray, a seventh grade science teacher at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School (LCBMS) in Yorktown Heights, was playing in a competitive soccer match in his over-30 league at The Net in Lagrange. He headed the ball. It came back to him and he headed it again. “I walked off of the field, and was not feeling well,” Alan said.
Teammate Erika Sclafani rushed to Alan as he collapsed on the sideline. His breathing had stopped. Moments later Kieran McIlvenny, coach and director of The Net, started CPR as Chip Davis, an EMT, immediately retrieved the AED. A shock was administered, and Alan began breathing on his own.
In a moment Alan and his family’s lives were taken on a new trajectory. But their experience will be turned into a vigilant campaign for AED awareness. On March 10 The Net and The East Fishkill Soccer Club are holding the Alan Murray Winter Classic, a benefit soccer tournament to help offset the expenses the family has incurred. The tournament will also highlight the need for AED awareness.
AED stands for Automatic External Defibrillator. The devices are seen in schools, gyms, malls, and sports complexes. The instructions for use are clear, easy and require no training. And, they save lives. When someone’s heart stops, be it a grandmother, father, or a team player, there is sometimes a short window of only minutes to intervene and save a life. The critical factors are having an AED accessible and knowing where it is. An AED can only save a life if people know to act fast.
Alan and his family are walking a long road to recovery. The ambulance took Alan to Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie. He had begun to have seizures, and was intubated and placed on a ventilator. After 2 weeks at Vassar, Alan’s condition was not improving, so he was transferred to NY-Presbyterian. As he made progress over six weeks, he was transferred to Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Center, where he remained for 4 weeks. Alan is finally home with his family.
Forty pounds lighter, with severe neuropathy in his right leg and fingers, Alan is determined to overcome his challenges. He’s working with therapists to improve his fine motor strength and overcome his mobility limitations. He hopes to get back to his students at LCBMS in September.
Karyn Murray, Alan’s wife, said that they have experienced highs and lows. “It was a wife’s worst nightmare,” Karyn said. “At Vassar they told me he was brain dead, so I thought he was going to die. Then we transferred him and that was just a roller coaster every day.” After Alan was transferred to NY-Presbyterian, she was juggling her concerns, fears, going back to work, caring for her young sons, and traveling down to the city to be with Alan every second that she could. With the help of her parents and Alan’s supportive family, they were able to have someone with Alan 24 hours a day. “After they took him off of the ventilator, and he was breathing on his own and he knew who I was, I knew he was in there and would be coming home someday," Karyn said.
The five kids have struggled with the ordeal. Alan has a boy, Ryan (20), at Binghamton University, daughters Caitlyn (17) and Shaun Marie (16), and sons Jake (9) and Ian (7). “It was very difficult for the younger children because they were not able to see their dad for almost 10 weeks. They would cry every night,” said Karyn. But, for the older children “…it was scary because they were involved with the day to day roller coaster. They saw him at his worst, on the ventilator, and looking terrible.”
Karyn recalled that one of the best days ever was when she was able to finally bring Jake and Ian to visit their Dad at Columbia. Another high point was when he received a day pass from Helen Hayes to come home for New Year’s Eve. He was so happy to be in his home for the first time in two months, alive, surrounded by his family.
The Alan Murray Winter Classic will be held at The Net at Gold’s Gym in Lagrangeville, New York on March 10. The team registration fee is $295. There are divisions for children in U9, U10, U11, U12, U13 and U14, and there is a Coed Over 30’s division. Please contact Kieran McIlvenny at email@example.com to inquire about tournament openings and to register your team.
There will also be a Silent Auction throughout the tournament. If you own a business or service, or know someone who does, and would like to donate to the silent auction, please contact Kieran McIlvenny at firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds from the tournament, silent auction, and all profits from food sales for the day will go directly to the Murray family.