Every second is critical in track and field.
The same applies to life.
Lawrence Terry understands both. In the snap of a finger, the then 33-year old girls track and field coach at Richland Northeast had his life changed forever.
Just 16 days before his 34th birthday, on May 2 of last year, the seemingly perfectly healthy Terry suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. The result left in the hospital for over a week with what doctors were calling a less than 50 percent chance for survival.
"I have a full-time job from 7 to 4 and coach from 4 to 5:30," Terry said. "I left early to cut grass. My fiance came home and was talking to me. I was sitting on my relay wall, and the next thing I was told was that I was on the ground. My son saw me lying there. We are silly a lot and play tricks, so he thought I was playing. He poked me with a stick thinking that I was going to jump up at him but saw that I wasn't moving. My neighbor came and administered CPR and saw my eyes rolling back in my head. They called EMS and the fire department."
Terry has no memory of anything other than sitting on his wall. Everything else is based on what he's told. What he does know is that he considers himself blessed to be alive.
"I flatlined three times," Terry said. "I spent five days in a coma with a less than 50 percent chance to live. The doctor told my family that there would be brain damage and just to pray. After my family prayed, the Lord said 'Are y'all done? Let me show you what I can do.' I have a defibrillator in my chest, but was in and out of the hospital in 10 days. I don't have a story. I have a testimony."
Terry was a track star at Richland Northeast in 2001-02. He was the 4A state champion in the 110-meter hurdles, as well as an all-region and all-state selection during his senior year. As a junior, he earned All-American honors in the 4x400-meter relay alongside teammate and former Clemson football standout Airese Curry.
Terry has also had coaching stints at Blythewood and Keenan high schools. In 2006, he joined a professional training group at the University of South Carolina. HIs training partners included former 1996 Olympic gold medalist hurdler Allen Johnson and 2004 400-meter silver medalist Otis Harris, who is currently the girls track and field coach at Dorman.
Terry has coached athletes from countries including Croatia, Japan, South Africa, Ghana, Bermuda and The Bahamas. While remaining as head coach at RNE, he said some adjustments needed to be made to accommodate his health.
"My motor skills are off," Terry said. "I have anxiety and can't really handle track meets right now. Practices are fine, but meets overwhelm me. I have short-term and long-term memory loss. If I'm having a regular conversation, no one would know. I don't talk politics and can't remember practices from last year or holidays. I'm getting used to my new body and the new norm. People ask how am I doing, and I just say every day is a good day."
Thomas Niles, a 16-year veteran and captain in the Columbia Fire Department, was one of the first responders that reached Terry. He said the fact that Terry is doing so well is nothing short of a miracle.
"When we got there, it was extremely dire," Niles said. "His eyes were open, but no one was there. When the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) says shock advised, it's rare people come back from that. I'm not a doctor or can give actual numbers, but it's rare."
Niles said that he met Terry a few weeks ago at the fire department. He added that it was a memorable moment in his career.
"It was a proud moment to see him walk in," Niles said. "It just gives us a sense of that's what we're here for."
Niles credited the quick response of Terry's family and neighbor in helping save his life. Terry said that his best friend died of a sudden cardiac arrest in 2017 and was also aware of Richland Northeast quarterback Josh Boyd suffering the same situation during a pickup basketball game. Coincidentally the same fire department responded to Boyd, who is currently doing well.
Terry said that he feels his experience helped Boyd and his family cope with theirs.
"God said for me to go be with the family," Terry said. "I told his mother that Josh will be fine and will be ok and that God will show y'all that he's in the miracle saving business. She called me her angel. Every second and every minute counts. You just can't take things for granted."
Every second is critical in track and field.