More than two years after he nearly died on the ice following a heart attack prior to an AHL game, Craig Cunningham posted one of the most inspirational videos you’ll ever see.
And that’s not hyperbole.
The 26-year-old former captain of the Arizona Coyotes AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners posted footage to his Instagram account on Wednesday of him not only taking a twirl around the ice, but looking like a game-ready pro despite skating on an artificial leg.
Cunningham, who lost his leg due to complications stemming from the incident, isn’t just out there taking a couple quick, casual lengths of the ice. His edging and ability to crossover on both sides is legit, and not just “legit for a guy with one leg,” either.
The now-pro scout with the Coyotes also posted a photo of the modified skate he had built to attach to his artificial leg.
Forget the fact that he’s back on the ice wheeling around like nothing happened — it’s a literal miracle that Cunningham is even here at all.
The then 26-year-old suffered a massive heart attack before a game against the Manitoba Moose on Nov. 19, 2016. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Zain Khalpey said after a specialized procedure and advanced life-saving therapy in 2016 that Cunningham's heart is “fully repaired,” and that it basically wasn't beating for the first couple of days after he collapsed.
Cunningham was transferred from Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital to Banner-University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona where he received a groundbreaking treatment using ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) — a specialized procedure for “patients so critically ill that no other support for the heart and lungs is adequate.”
Cunningham later credited the doctors and first responders for going the extra mile to save his life.
"I wouldn't be here today without these doctors, our trainers, and the firefighters who were at the arena that night," Cunningham said.
His mother, Heather, echoed the sentiment.
"Craig would not be with us today if these people had not gone that extra mile in every aspect of this situation. The only reason he survived the original incident was the continued refusal to give up in a seemingly hopeless situation,” she said.
"They had run out of options and had to create new options by pushing the boundaries of things they've tried and implanted before. Most of all they refused to give up in spite of hopelessness. These people are nothing short of a gift to mankind and I will remember the gift they have given every time I look at my son."
At the time, Cunningham was quick to admit that his professional playing days were likely over, and he’s probably right, but it’s tough to ever rule anything out with this guy — especially after watching this clip.
As Cunningham humorously noted at the very end of the video, there may be something other than his health holding him back from making a professional return:
“I still can’t skate backwards.”
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