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 Columns & Editorials

September 14, 2000

Have A Heart

By Robin Meiser

In the past month, the Charlotte County Speedway road warrior division has had to bury two of its heroes, Paul Pojafsky and Ron Dushek, Jr. Both were very special men with a great sense of humor and hearts as big as all outdoors. Hidden inside those big hearts were time bombs ticking, waiting to explode.

And explode they did, while both of these wonderful men were navigating four wheel vehicles. Scary, isn't it? It had to be even scarier for Paulie's 10-year old daughter, Kelsey, who was with her dad in his vintage El Camino when he suffered a massive heart attack. With wisdom and fortitude far beyond her years she was able to stop the vehicle and turn off the motor, thus avoiding further injury to her or anyone else driving during the torrential downpour. Paul was about my age, his early forties.

Several weeks later the outstanding competitors in the road warrior division gave up their winnings and raced in memory of Paul Pojafsky. They then took their helmets into the grandstands where our racing family gave from the bottoms of their pockets to Robin and Kelsey Pojafsky. Among those walking through the stands were both the senior and junior Ron Dusheks. It was an emotional evening for all but little did we know what was in store for us a scant two weeks later.

The week after the Pojafsky Memorial race, the road warrior division was unable to race due to rain and curfew. On September 2, they were slated to run two 20-lap feature races. The first race was relatively uneventful, won by Terry Price, which fit with my philosophy that I have proved over and over again "when you do good things, good things happen." You see, the week before he had stood in the hot sun for several hours asking each of his fellow competitors to donate their winnings to the Pojafsky family.

It took several restarts to get the second feature going, I was working on getting my press release ready when the caution flag came out and my fellow officials in the tower fell silent. I looked up and saw a four car crash in Turn Two. The red flag came out and I made my way to the door as one of the spotters called for the safety team to assist with Ron Dushek, Sr. At the gate was Ron's wife, Evelyn, frantically trying to get to the other side of the track. I asked her to stay where she was and I would let her know as soon as I knew anything and I made my way to Turn Two. Evelyn came shortly behind me, which I would have done in the same situation.

I didn't have a radio that night so I was thrown for a loop when I reached Turn Two and saw our safety team working so hard, administering CPR to Ron. Standing beside them, looking like lost little boys, were Ronnie, Jr., also a competitor in the road warrior divison; as well Lil' John Hanuschik and Big Al Welling racing compatriots who are married to Ron's nieces, DeeDee and Christine. As Evelyn and the girls sat crying on the pit wall, I tried to comfort Ronnie while all the other officials in the area tried to help with Ron. In our minds was one united thought "Breathe, Ron, breathe."

The ambulance came and took Ron to the hospital while DeeDee and Christine helped their Aunt Evelyn to her car. I followed shortly behind and arrived at the hospital where I waited with the family for word on Ron. Needless to say, we had another unfortunate outcome and I have never been through anything so tragic in my own life as what that family experienced that night. Those of us that were with them, had no idea what to do or say so we just held them in our arms, trying to silently comfort them in their despair.

I think it hit me so hard because I lost my own only beloved little brother when he was 22 years old from heart failure. He was running in a marathon when he experienced chest pains and sat on the side of the road. The paramedics approached, asking if he needed help and he said "I am going to finish this race if it kills me." With that, he stood up, slumped to the floor and died. The paramedics worked on him for an hour, so they say, not wanting to give up on one so young. I don't know, I wasn't there, I lived a thousand miles away so maybe in my own way when Ron died I relived my own tragedy through them.

I do not write these words to bring further sorrow to the Dusheks. Heaven knows, Evelyn, Ronnie, Sharon, Ronda, Lewis and the other family members have enough of their own. I do not want to bring back painful memories for Kelsey or Robin Pojafsky. I love all of these people, as do our entire racing community. It is because of this, I write these words.

This goes out to all of "my drivers" and yes, I am possessive, you are all my drivers although I share you with the rest of our staff and officials at Charlotte County Speedway who are also possessive and feel the same way, whether you want to believe that or not. You are also "our pit crews" and "our fans" and we hope you feel the same about us. Isn't that what a family is all about? Please, I beg you from the bottom of my heart to listen to what I am about to say.

Do not let what happened to Paul and Ron, happen to another one of us, if we can avoid it. Please, go get a physical and an EKG. Maybe if heaven is with us on this, some wonderful doctor will read this and hear our plight and give all of our drivers physicals and EKG's before the next racing season. Every night before I go to bed, I pray to God to help me say this the right way and help us find a way to avoid any more tragedy in our "family".

I have personally known six men this year in their mid-50s and YOUNGER who have died from massive heart attacks this year. Most were not aware of a heart problem. All have left grieving family and friends behind asking "Why?"

All youth sports teams, high school teams (including cheerleading) and professional sports require participants to have a physical every year before competition begins. You may not like what I am going to say here but all stock car tracks should do the same in unity so that drivers can't go to another track simply because they don't require a physical..

Yes, a good physical exam costs good money but think about it, the money you spend on a set of racing tires could be spent on a physical and it could keep you alive long enough to compete in your next race. Racing wives and girlfriends, nag your men until they go get a physical or buy them one for their birthday but while you are at it, make sure you make an appointment for yourself because heart attacks kill many women in this age bracket too. Racing parents, do the same, insist that your child whether a minor or adult have a physical but also do them a favor and have one yourself. I wish my father had, he might still be alive today and I could hug him and say "I Love You, Dad."

Please forgive me if I have struck too close to home and know I say what I say because of my love of our sport and our family. We do not need to lose anyone else if it can be avoided and many heart attacks can. So please, make an appointment today with your family physician, it may save your life or the lives of others, as well.

-Robin


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