By Peter Simunovich
Cleopatra Richards remembers being in her apartment about 3 PM on July 26 cooking chicken with peas and a salad and described it as a “delicious Caribbean dish,” and a favorite of her boyfriend, Stephen Gibson, who at the time was playing cricket with Stars United in a match against Middlesex of New York in Brooklyn.
“I was cooking it for us so it would be ready when he came over after the game,” recalled Cleopatra, 38, who has been in a relationship with Gibson, 41, for about two and a half years.
The scene was set for a typical Saturday night date, one of thousands across New York City. But what was supposed to be a tasty dinner talking about his performance in the cricket match suddenly turned into horror and screams.
Jasper Davis, a cricket teammate and friend called Cleopatra, and said that Gibson was dead. Panic overwhelmed Cleopatra. “I went crazy. I started screaming. No! Not him! No! Not him!” She then began to run towards Gibson’s apartment, which is in the same neighborhood, East Flatbush.
The thoughts of Gibson being attacked or hit by a car on his way home after leaving her apartment the previous night raced through her mind.
A few minutes later Davis called back and told her Gibson had been hit by lightning as he was running to shelter from the cricket field, but was still alive and had been taken to the Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan.
Since then Cleopatra, who first met Gibson in St Vincent in the Caribbean 10 years ago, has visited Gibson every day, sitting by his bed in intensive care, holding his hand, praying and reading the Bible to him.
“I love him very much and we plan to marry. Stephen is very religious and he loves his cricket,” she said in an interview with DreamCricket.com.
Cleopatra stays with Gibson for as long as she can, “sometimes up to 11 hours a day,” she said.
“He still can’t talk. I hold his hand and pray. Now there is movement and when I speak to him I see movement in his eyes. He is getting better.”
Gibson is still on a fluid diet and doctors, said Cleopatra, have said that he will recover from a string of serious injuries.
Cleopatra still cannot find the right words to describe her feelings when she first saw Gibson in hospital. “He was lying on the bed lifeless and he was surrounded by a lot of doctors and nurses,” she recalled, but with clarity and in a better frame of mind now that the worst is over even though Gibson is still in critical condition.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I still can’t find the words to express my feelings,” she said. “I kept asking: ‘Is he OK? Is he OK?’”
Then, as if drifting back to the actual day, Cleopatra said: “I remembered saying to myself that I had to be strong. Be strong. I had faith and I knew all along he would be OK.”
Gibson, who Cleopatra described as “a diehard cricket fan and an all-rounder ,” had been hit by lightning across the left side of his face and it exited through his feet.
“Stephen was bleeding from the brain, had injuries to his lung, kidneys and liver. He suffered burns inside and outside of his body. His hat, pants and shoes were all burned,” said Cleopatra.
When Gibson, who moved to New York from St Vincent four years ago, fell to the ground after he had been struck, Patrice Redhead, 28, ran to his aid. She is one of the many unsung heroes who helped save Gibson’s life.
Patrice began CPR and pumped his chest with her arms until a group of players came to help.
“I don’t think anybody knew what to do, but they followed Patrice’s instructions. The players showed a lot of courage and performed CPR while she continued to pump his chest,” said Alston Bacchus, a founder of the Middlesex club, player and treasurer, in an interview with DreamCricket.com.
“We can thank them all and Patrice first. She was at the park and she ran over to him and started to pump his chest.
“An ambulance arrived between 10 and 15 minutes after Stephen had been hit by lightning and Patrice and the players did everything they could before the medical people arrived.”
When Patrice began CPR on Gibson there was no heart beat and his eyes began to roll back, but after frantic work on his body a heart beat was detected.
To those who stood around Gibson it appeared that Patrice, who had been watching her husband Ortis Charles play in the game with their two sons, had some form of first aid training.
But in an interview with this website, she said that she had never performed CPR or chest pumping on a person. She admitted that all her knowledge in what helped save Gibson came from watching cop shows on TV.
“I watch a lot of Law and Order, House, CSI and CSI Miami --- all the cop shows --- on TV and I remembered enough to perform CPR and pumping his chest,” said the 28-year-old school volunteer.
“When I got to Stephen I thought I would panic, but I didn’t. I did CPR and began pumping his chest. I felt no heart beat, but after about two minutes I felt his heart beat.”
Patrice recalled that when she performed CPR on Gibson she said she took a lot of smoke from his body. “I asked my husband if he (Stephen) was a smoker and he said that he wasn’t. It must have come from the lightning,” she said.
Patrice has visited Gibson and his girlfriend several times in hospital and she and her husband have already hosted a barbecue at their home to raise money for Gibson. They raised more than $400.
Cleopatra, who has profusely thanked Patrice for her efforts to help save Gibson, said: “Patrice, the players and the medical response team all helped to save his life. They are the heroes.”
Asked if Gibson would play cricket again, she said that she preferred he didn’t, but if he decided to play again then he had to be careful and to leave the field when a storm threatened.
The Brooklyn Cricket League is still working on plans to raise funds to help Gibson, who is an unemployed electrician.