Spokane’s Robert Martin was 23 years old and in peak physical condition as he competed in Hoopfest in 1993.
The year before he had qualified for the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and was touring the world as part of a club track team. The last thing Martin expected was to end up on his back on the pavement, the victim of unexplained cardiac arrest.
Yet that’s where he suddenly found himself during Hoopfest. As he lay on the searing asphalt, he sustained calf burns that left him permanently scared. When he lost consciousness, he fell to the ground, hit his head and lost oxygen to his brain that led to short-term memory loss. Kathy Pate, a bystander, immediately started CPR before EMTs arrived on scene. Martin is “forever grateful for their efforts.”
Martin said on Sunday he’s felt fortunate just to be alive since the incident. He’s appreciative to have been revived quickly by first responders before beginning a long recovery. He hasn’t missed Hoopfest since, even playing in the wheelchair division in 1994 after doctors put in a defibrillator that hasn’t been needed.
Martin now works in the health insurance field and gives back to the community in a variety of ways. This weekend marked the first time he didn’t play in Hoopfest. Instead, he was one of the coaches of the Blessings Under The Bridge teams. He also volunteers his time for a summer basketball camp for kids in east Spokane.
Martin says he never saw the cardiac incident as a negative thing and instead saw it as an opportunity to learn a life lesson.
“At that time in my life, I was so busy, going around the world for track, doing my own thing and didn’t see a lot of my family at that time,” Martin said. “Things happen for a reason and I think God put this on me to understand what’s really important in life. It’s taken me the better part of 20 years to really figure it out that it’s not about me.”
Since then he’s tried to help people who are down and out and give them some sort of hope.
“I figure I’m in a position where I can’t complain about a lot of things at all. People look up to me in a lot of ways, so I like to take that and use it for the better,” he said. “I’m a social servant by nature. In anything you do, you can find a way to help someone else in their lives.”
-Authored by Jeff Bunch