RACINE -- It was a comeback for the ages - one of the greatest of all time. A local high school basketball player only made one basket all season, but the fact that he could even take that shot was nothing short of a miracle.
"It was just amazing, man. I can't believe I did it. I improved and my fans got my back," Melvin Bedford said.
Thursday night, February 23rd, was anything but just another "Senior Night" at Racine Park High School. That's because Melvin Bedford was one of the Panthers 15 seniors who was honored. Bedford hadn't scored a point all season, but everyone was there to see him. Bedford has that effect on people.
"You think you've cried enough, but just the support of obviously, mom and dad, his teammates, for him to take court against Bradford that night that's real life, and I'm just so happy and blessed that he is with us today," Racine Park basketball coach Jim Betker said.
Bedford has made a miraculous and courageous comeback from the day almost two years ago, when he suffered a massive heart attack that caused global brain damage while playing pickup basketball.
"Melvin couldn't talk, couldn't walk, couldn't eat. They had a feeding tube in his belly. He couldn't breathe on his own at first. It was very hard to see. I saw my baby in the bed," Bedford's mother, Jamie Bedford said.
The heart attack left Bedford without a pulse for five to six minutes. It took multiple tries with a defibrillator to revive him. In an instant, he had gone from a strapping, athletic teenager to someone doctors thought might not function at all. But Jamie Bedford, a mother with a strong faith, refused to believe that.
"I didn't know how it was going to happen, I just knew he was going to make it through when everybody was saying 'no, it didn't look good.' Something in me as a mother and my spirit, believing in God, he's going to make it," Jamie Bedford said.
Little by little, Bedford began to recover, and Melvin's teacher says his progress has been nothing short of miraculous and remarkable. "As far as expectations, the sky is the limit for him. He is talking about some college or working - I think he can work independently wherever he is, because he sets his mind to it, and he will succeed," Melvin's teacher Jamie Shufelt said.
Bedford's Racine Park teammate, Taron Edwards, was with him that fateful day on the playground. The joy he feels for his close friend knows no bounds. Nor does what Bedford taught him about how precious life is.
"I just want to talk to him on the phone every single day, or be with him as much as I can, because you never know who you're going to lose anymore. He taught me a lesson - I tell my family I love them every day because I never know when I can't tell them that," Edwards said.
"We don't know how much time we have on this earth, and to go through what Melvin went through, I can't imagine. To see him and as gracious and kind and loving as he is - in all the time I've known Melvin, I've never known him to say a negative word about anybody or anything. People really rally around him," Racine Park High School Activities Director Jeff Miller said.
Bedford missed his first ceremonial shot that night, but made the second. Those who know and love him best joke that he was just trying to pad his statistics by grabbing the rebound. Whether it goes in the record book or not, Bedford's basket may have been the most important one in Racine Park history.
"One of the best parts for me was just watching Melvin's mom and dad and his entire family go out onto the court and you could see in his parents' face that that moment when Taron gave him a hug, and our players' reactions, that there wasn't a dry eye. Our student section chanting his name - it was something that I'll never forget," Miller said.