A recipe for survival cooked up by the son of a brave man

KINGSTON, RI (WPRI) — A local man who impacted hundreds of friends, and even strangers, has died after battling complications caused by a severe case of sepsis, and his son wants everyone to know he appreciated every minute of his struggle.

Ethan Conners understands he’ll never be as good of a chef as his dad, Brian “Red Dog” Conners.

“He could make these three eggs taste like a steak to me,” Ethan said as he cracked the shells over a frying pan.

But Ethan would tell you Red Dog’s best recipe was probably a mixture of determination and pure grit. In 2008, sepsis left him in a coma for 42 days, and stopped his heart three times. It took his legs and a hand, but not his spirit or sense of humor.

“You know what this is?” Red Dog said to us as he raised his hand in the air during a 2012 Street Story. Then, as he smacked the waiting hand, he delivered the punch line. “A high none,” he said, laughing.

“His thing was don’t let me tell you what to do, but have a nice day.”

‘Red Dog’ always found a way to smile, and reflected back on his struggle during that interview.

“I mean, you make a choice,” Conners said. “Stay or go. And if I was going to stay, I was going to fight, man. I have to be here for a reason. You know, I was gone.”

His son remembers those days vividly.

“His doctors told me he wasn’t going to survive,” Ethan said. “So, I was doing my best to not listen to them at all. And he proved them wrong. The strongest guy I’ve ever met in my life.”

His son said he was never quite sure that his dad knew he was there — until doctors woke him from a medically induced coma.

“He snaps out of it. He’s looking around. Locks eyes with me and he says ‘I love you son.’ First thing he said after coming out of his coma. He just knew I was there.”

As he got better, Red Dog put his courage on canvas.

“And it’s called ASP,” Red Dog said with a grin in 2012 while describing one of his canvasses. “All stump painting.” There was more laughter.

The life-long Aquidneck Island surfer even got back on a board, but last month, about 7 years from when doctors predicted he wouldn’t survive, they were finally right.

“It was something that was going to happen,” Ethan said. “You’re never ready, but I think about my father every day. I’m glad I had the chance to have as much time as I did with him. His thing was don’t let me tell you what to do, but have a nice day.”

We kept in touch with Red Dog after our story with him 3 years ago. We can verify he would tell you he had many, many nice days.

Send your story ideas to Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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