Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Danny Kassap Fund

Danny Kassap, one of Canada’s finest distance runners, very nearly died last month when he collapsed while running the Berlin Marathon. Now he needs help from the running community to pay for the life-saving medical care that he received while hospitalized in Berlin. If you follow distance running in Canada, you’ve probably heard of Danny Kassap. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he came to Canada as a teenager in 2001 for the Francophone Games. He made a daring escape from the athletes' village, seeking refugee status in Canada on the basis of political persecution.

Meanwhile, Danny found his way to Toronto, and began training with the University of Toronto Track Club. In 2004, he won the first marathon he ever ran in a very impressive time of 2:14:50. For the next several years, he continued to run very fast times on very high mileage, while also working full-time and obtaining his high school equivalency. Danny has never been on any form of social assistance.

After numerous legal setbacks, Danny finally became a landed immigrant in April of this year, and a Canadian citizen in August. As a result, he was finally able to run a race outside of Canada. In April, he traveled to England to run the London Marathon, one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive road races. He finished 15th, just three places behind the reigning Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini. In September, he traveled to Berlin to run his first marathon as a Canadian citizen.

For the first several kilometers in Berlin, Danny appeared poised to have another outstanding race. However, near the 5 km mark, disaster struck when Danny suddenly collapsed. A good Samaritan who happened to be in close proximity to him at the time began administering CPR almost immediately, and a paramedic on a motorcycle got to him within a minute. Danny received between 15-19 shocks from a defibrillator, and the paramedics worked on him for 45 minutes before his condition stabilized. He was placed in a medically-induced coma for several days, and remained in a Berlin hospital for over two weeks before he was able to return home to Toronto.

The doctors determined that Danny suffered a “ventricular fibrillation” (an uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle) brought on by myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart), which in turn was caused by a cold virus. Danny will not be able to run for at least the next three months, but doctors are cautiously optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

Danny received outstanding medical care while in Berlin, but it has left him with a crippling debt. Even with OHIP covering a portion of Danny’s medical bills, he still owes $18,000 to the hospital which cared for him, and which discharged him on the undertaking that the amount owing will be paid in a timely manner.

Danny presently works full-time as an assistant manager at the Running Room. Eighteen thousand dollars is a prohibitively large amount for him to have to repay quickly. Danny has been unable to contact his family since coming to Canada, and even if he could, they would be unable to provide him with any financial assistance. However, we are hopeful that Danny’s many friends and well-wishers within the running community will be able to provide him with some measure of support.

Danny’s primary motivation for running the Berlin Marathon was to secure a spot on his first Canadian national team so that he could proudly represent Canada at next summer’s World Championships. Danny has made a tremendous contribution to the Canadian running community since arriving here more than seven years ago, and now is our chance to return the favour.

Should you wish to make a donation to help cover the cost of Danny’s medical expenses, , please go to the following link…

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