The work behind the scenes
It is winter, and bitter cold at Aqueduct when Humberto Chavez receives a call from a member of his congregation. "Chaplain, I'm at the racetrack and I need to speak with you. It's urgent."
Most chaplains are responsible for just one racetrack, but because the three New York tracks are operated by the same franchise, Chavez is responsible for them all.
“The technician incredulously allows them to leave. Five minutes later, Chavez's cell phone rings. It's the doctor, and his panicked voice screams over the hum of the car's engine. "That person you're with should be dead right now! He has a severe blood clot to his brain. His whole skull, all the way down to his chin, is full of fluid. We should be taking him into the operating room. Get him back here! He could die any minute!" Chavez goes numb. "Wow! And he's sitting right next to me!" he thinks. Then he realizes the gravity of the situation. Turning to the exercise rider, he says calmly: "The doctor says we need to go back. Your condition is very serious. They need to operate on you today." "No matter what they do, it can't be worse than this," Plaza replies. "I just got a splitting headache." "Oh, Lord, here we go!" Chavez says. He throws his car into a quick U-turn. They head back to the hospital. The doctors drain the fluid and remove the blood clot. Chavez is at the hospital from 10 in the morning until 11 that evening. Juan Plaza comes out of surgery holding the chaplain's hand. "He came in just in time," the doctor remarks. "If he had gone another day without that operation ... I just don't think he would have survived."
That person you're with should be dead right now! He has a severe blood clot to his brain. His whole skull, all the way down to his chin, is full of fluid. We should be taking him into the operating room. Get him back here! He could die any minute!” -- Physician, friend of Humberto Chavez