‘Mark the miracle’In a split second, Mark McGillis’ life changed. He was struck down in the kitchen of his Superior home two days after Thanksgiving by a brain aneurysm.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
In a split second, Mark McGillis’ life changed. He was struck down in the kitchen of his Superior home two days after Thanksgiving by a brain aneurysm. Luckily for the Superior police traffic sergeant, his daughters were there.
“Had they not been there to call 911, he would likely have died,” said Tracey Burm, a friend of the family.
McGillis has listened to the 911 call his 13-year-old daughter Laurin made.
“She was calm, collected, had it all together,” he said. “It was touching.”
First responders were at the door within about two minutes, Laurin said. One of the Superior firefighters told the paramedics to take good care of the policeman because “he’s one of our own,” according to McGillis’ mother, Jean.
After being stabilized at Essentia Health in Duluth, McGillis was flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul where they specialize in brain aneurysm surgeries. The Superior man developed pneumonia and meningitis, undergoing six surgeries before moving to Bethesda Rehabilitation facility in mid-January. Doctors said things could have gone either way.
“We call him Mark the miracle,” his mother said.
On May 31, McGillis came home. The best thing about the move, he said, was being back with his daughters.
“We took a lot of trips down to the cities,” Laurin said, but only for weekends and breaks. Having their dad home was good, she said, but different because there are many things he can’t do.
McGillis has the same dry sense of humor, and except for the weeks he spent in the hospital, his memories are intact.
“He’s worked very, very hard to get to the point he’s at today,” Burm said. The work included re-taking his driver’s test and making more time for physical activity like walking. He is continuing with his outpatient therapy, regaining strength and relearning daily routines
“I feel OK,” McGillis said Monday during a break from mowing the lawn, but nothing’s the same as it used to be. His coordination and balance are off, and, thanks to the stroke that occurred with the aneurysm, he can’t taste anything.
Laurin and her sister Mara, 10, have stepped up to do more chores around the house, from dishes and laundry to lessons in lawn mowing.
“They’ve become quite helpful,” McGillis said.
Despite the fact that his taste buds are compromised, his friends and family are getting together to throw a spaghetti benefit dinner for McGillis. The event runs 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at Cathedral of Christ the King Catholic Church. Money raised is earmarked for medical expenses.
“The community support has been absolutely outstanding,” said Burm, one of the organizers. Donors have offered a slew of prizes, from a tandem skydive jump and car-detailing packages to hotel stays, quilts and artwork.
“My living room is absolutely full of gift baskets,” Burm said Monday.
McGillis’ local roots run deep. He grew up in Superior, attending Cathedral School through ninth grade and graduating with the Superior Senior High School class of 1983. On Sept. 4, 1994, he joined the Superior Police Department.
“It’s something I always wanted to do since I was a little kid,” McGillis said. He is working in a light duty capacity with the department. He’d like to finish his career as a law enforcement officer, but time will tell if his body can recover enough to do so.
Life can change in an instant, Burm said.
“He’s just been an outstanding citizen and police officer, and it’s just been hard on him and his family,” she said.
But at times like these, those who care step up, Jean McGillis said. They’ve been overwhelmed by the community support for the upcoming benefit, both local and from afar. A few carloads of officers from the St. Paul, Minn., area are planning to attend, as is a Savage, Minn., police officer who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he lost control of his squad car on black ice and slid into a tree.
The meal will include spaghetti, French bread, coleslaw and homemade desserts from St. Anthony parish in Lake Nebagamon and Chapter BG of the P.E.O. Raffle tickets will be available, along with a silent auction and bucket raffle. Cost for the meal is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-12 with children age 5 and under eating free. Take-outs are available. To donate items or volunteer for the event, contact Burm at 218-590-0052. More information on the dinner and raffle prizes is available on Facebook under Spaghetti Benefit Dinner for Mark McGillis.