CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Officer Mark Wilkes’ story is one of strength and survival. He was hospitalized for 175 days, living through several health challenges and attributing his strength to his family and to his brothers and sisters in blue.
March 12, 2023 was the day everything changed for Officer Mark Wilkes. After playing in the Battle of Badges Hockey game, he went home and suffered a major heart attack.
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“I don’t remember anything, the day is just a blur… just stories like one of the hockey players on the team told my mom and my son that ‘Mark doesn’t look right,'” said Officer Wilkes during a sit-down interview with 22News.
Moments after Wilkes arrived home to his family after the game, first responders were called and he was rushed to the hospital. Wilkes calls what happens next the perfect storm… he suffered another heart attack, a stroke, kidney failure, septic shock. Wilkes says his strength, belief in God and his family helped him pull through.
“I would hear my son call my name or something, hold my hand. You know he’s 15-years-old and he’s not going to be alone… because my dad passed away when I was 13,” said Wilkes.
Wilkes received a tremendous amount of support from the community and his fellow officers, who organized fundraisers, including at Leadfoot Brewing and the Chicopee Portuguese Club.
Wilkes told 22News, “It’s simply amazing, the outpouring of the entire community, you know my blue family at the police department, I love each and every one of them. It’s amazing the support they gave me. You really think about the thin blue line, there is one and I experienced it, you know?”
Wilkes, who is 52, has goals for himself: To walk unassisted, to go back to the gym, to watch his son play sports and to just live a normal life.
Wilkes has been on the police force more than 23 years. He says he’ll have to retire but wants to work in the community and inspire others with his story.
“I don’t want to say I’m a superhero but for some reason it wasn’t God’s time to take me. He kept me here for a reason, got to figure it out one day,” said Wilkes.
There’s an upcoming Golf Tournament being held for Officer Wilkes by the Rumbleseat Bar & Grille.
WWLP-22News, an NBC affiliate, began broadcasting in March 1953 providing local news, network, syndicated, and local programming to western Massachusetts. Follow 22News on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram