SMITH: Candlestick went dark for our John

Invited by a buddy to the big 49ers/Packers game, I was one of thousands of fans curious and concerned about a flurry of paramedic activity just behind one of the end zones in the fourth quarter.

There hadn't been a serious injury on the field, so who was loaded into the ambulance that a policeman on a light-flashing motorcycle led out of the stadium?

I was dumbstruck minutes later when a phone call from The Press Democrat newsroom informed me it was my friend John Burgess, the world-class PD photographer.

John Burgess: 2012 Photos Of The Year


He'd suffered a heart attack and crumpled while shooting photos from the goal line.

Think of that. If it had to happen, could John have possibly been in a better spot? In seconds, emergency medical personnel on the sidelines were working on him, toiling to restore his heartbeat and breathing.

John, a creative genius who loves sports photography and in addition to his PD work has shot more than 300 assignments for Sports Illustrated, was at last revived by ambulance paramedics who shocked him back to life.

"The first person I remember seeing," he told me Wednesday in an e-mail, "was Robert Beck, a photographer from Sports Illustrated who I worked with on the golf tour for the magazine and have known for 20 years."

Beck left the game because he didn't want John to be alone at S.F. General Hospital and he knew it would take a while for John's wife, the PD's Mary Callahan Burgess, to get there.

Today John feels hugely grateful to Beck, to "the amazing paramedics who brought me back from the edge," to the motorcycle cop who rode escort to the hospital and to a heap of doctors and nurses — some of whom call him a miracle man because he's come through so extremely well.

He'll undergo bypass surgery before he comes home to his family and begins to plot a return to shooting magic with those Canons of his.

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