- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - J.J. Quinlan died for 45 seconds.

It was Dec. 21, 2009, and the doctors told Bill and Teresa Quinlan their son was in for a “rough night.” The doctors had just removed the future Wyoming Cowboy’s tonsils. They said there would be some blood, effects of a surgery they’d completed countless times before.

The bruising defensive end wasn’t worried, and why would he be? He’d taken worse hits on a football field. He was tough. He was a Quinlan.

He spent that night in the living room, sprawled on a recliner while his mother worked and his father slept a few rooms away. His companion was a plastic bucket, once an empty white but now gradually filling with red. Occasionally throughout the night Quinlan leaned over and vomited blood, depositing more of himself with a splash as the hours meshed and faded.


Quinlan’s memory became hazy as the bucket overflowed, a gallon of J.J.’s insides unnaturally spilling out. He tried to stand but couldn’t. He tried to yell but didn’t. The words were missing - buried in the rubble. Two hundred-forty sluggish pounds slid off the recliner and landed with a thud on the floor, dead weight floundering in a pool of its own blood.

“I just remember trying to lift my head up to say, ‘Dad, Dad,’ to call out for him. Nothing came out,” Quinlan said. “It was just air coming out.”

The next few hours existed only as passing images, a flipbook of scattered visions captured in rare moments of consciousness.

His mother is standing over him, screaming, as one side of J.J.’s face stares back at her and the other lay engulfed in the puddle.

He’s riding in a car on the way to the hospital, his parents’ voices ringing in his ears, the world passing him by in bright lights through the window.

Doctors are forcefully inserting a breathing tube into his mouth, holding him down as he fights unfamiliar faces, struggling to process a scene he doesn’t understand.

And then nothing. He was gone.

J.J. died for 45 seconds, lying unresponsive in a hospital room while his blood soaked into a rug at home. The doctors told his parents that he was beyond saving. If they wanted to call a priest, now was the time.

“We were absolutely in shock,” Bill Quinlan said.

Defibrillator paddles were used to pump an electric current to J.J.’s heart, a desperate attempt to jump-start an engine that had lost most of its fuel. At this moment, there was a body on the table, but it wasn’t Bill and Teresa’s adopted son.

Quinlan thinks about it sometimes, the things he would have missed out on if he didn’t wake - the people he wouldn’t have met.

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