When Chad R MacDonald suited up on Friday to check out new feature The Batman, he didn’t expect to take the place of The Dark Knight himself.
“It’s the kind of story that nobody would believe,” said Chad, a Hell’s Kitchen local, content creator, and superhero enthusiast who has lived in the neighborhood since 2015. He and several friends planned to attend the opening weekend of The Batman at a movie theater downtown — and they dressed for the part.
“The man I was with, Jean, lives in my building and our children are friends, and he came down and met me at my apartment. And then we were going to meet a third guy, Hikmet, because we were going down to Battery Park to see the movie. And there’s like six, seven of us total that usually go to these things. We call ourselves the Big Apple Super Dads — I’m always dressed up, and some of them get dressed up sometimes too as superheroes, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, whatever, we’ll dress up for it — ‘cause I’m a giant nerd and in good company. So Jean picked me up and I’m in full regalia.”
Chad initially started donning costumes as a way to connect with his son, who is on the Autism spectrum. “He had trouble getting into imaginative play. When he saw a cape that would fly up behind him, that sort of kickstarted it, and so he would like to dress up as superheroes. And when he dressed up as superheroes, I would too,” he said.
On Friday, he was dressed as the titular character in The Batman . “I’ve got my Batman hoodie on. We leave the back door of our building onto W40th Street. We’re happy, we’re chatting,” he recalled. They got as far as W44th Street between 9/10th Avenue when “just before we got to the garden with the mosaics, there’s people ahead of us and two people are hunched down and they’re obscuring this horrible screaming,” Chad said.
He and his friend Jean dismissed the noise at first: “You couldn’t really place where the screaming was coming from and we were just thinking it was, you know, young parents dealing with a tantrum-throwing kid. We’ve both been through it. We were like, ‘Oh, sorry that you’re going through that.’ And it wasn’t until we were right next to them that we saw — ‘Oh no, someone’s on the ground screaming and convulsing.’ And there’s a girl on one side of her, a guy on the other,” he said.
“It took a minute for that to register because we kept walking and then we both just sort of stopped, looked at each other,” said Chad. “We both have Batman shirts on. We can’t walk past this. So we went over to them and I realized as I approached that I probably look very bizarre. So I removed my mask so they could see my face, but still — I mean, I’m in a cape.”
Chad asked the frightened group of young adults if they needed help, and saw that the woman on the ground seemed to be having a seizure. “The thing that I found odd was the woman was clearly convulsing or having some sort of seizure, but she was screaming — I’ve been around people in seizures before, and there’s no screaming, their teeth are usually clenched and usually they usually can’t vocalize,” he said.
The woman’s convulsing had caused her to repeatedly bang her head on the sidewalk: “I knew from the first aid training I’d taken that someone convulsing needs to be on their side,” Chad said. He slowly assisted her companions in getting the woman on her side. “She was sort of trying to say something like ‘Guh, guh, guh’ — I don’t know what she was saying, maybe she was trying to tell me to go away — I can’t blame her for that.”
Chad explained his costume to the group and asked them a bit about the woman’s medical history, upon which they explained that she had ingested some edibles and was experiencing a bad reaction. “Jean told me later ‘Remember in Batman Begins when he gets hit by the Scarecrow’s fear gas and he’s just lying on the ground, freaking out? That’s what she reminded me of’.”
Chad helped the woman’s boyfriend call 911, delivered their location, and kept the woman on her side as she vomited until paramedics arrived. Jean, meanwhile, maintained control of the small crowd who had formed to witness the spectacle. “If he wasn’t there, I don’t know that I would’ve been able to stay so calm,” said Chad. “People will walk by someone in distress in New York too often, but when someone is in distress and someone else is dressed in a Batman costume helping them, people are going to stop and watch.”
Eventually, the crowds dispersed as the police and EMTs arrived, Chad and Jean briefing them on the situation. “I stood up, told the cops what I knew, and that’s when the cops said, ‘So she threw up?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘Good thing you got her on her side — that probably saved her life’,” he recalled. The entire ordeal was only about 7 minutes from start to finish, and Chad and Jean eventually reunited with their friend Himket, who had been waiting around the corner – unaware of the hubbub.
“My buddy Himket, who’d been waiting at the top of the block the whole time, called me ’cause he was annoyed we were late. He’s got a Batman shirt on too. We’re basically three giant kids going to see Batman. I was like, ‘Yeah, sorry man. We just had to stop and save a life but we’ll be right there’. And I don’t know if he’s just used to us ’cause he’s been around us and we’ve done crazy things, or he thought I was kidding or whatever, but that’s satisfied him. He was like, ‘Oh, okay’,” said Chad.
The incident made him grateful for his first aid training, which he received as a PTA parent at nearby PS 51 elementary school. “My son has gone to PS 51 for all of his school life, and that is what his universe is centered around. A few years ago I was still with the PTA. But the last time I did it, it was maybe 2017, and was held right there in the gymnatorium at PS 51. The instructor was like, ‘You know, if the person is having seizures, that is not a CPR situation — that in that case, you get them on their side,’ and they didn’t say why, but I remembered the rolling on the side thing. I’m certainly not a trained EMT, but I did know enough to get a person having seizures on their side,” said Chad.
This wasn’t the first time the Hell’s Kitchen dad has accidentally employed his superpowers for good. Back in 1995, Chad worked for famed toy company FAO Schwarz at its now-shuttered 5th Ave location as a toy demonstrator. He was often asked to dress up in character as Infoman and was spending a shift minding the store’s entrance in place of one of its Wooden Soldier characters when he spotted something unusual.
“I’m on 58th street looking at Fifth and there’s the big plaza usually filled with tourists and people and vendors and whatever else,” recounted Chad. “And as I’m standing there, you know, doing my bits, these two kids go rollerblading up the sidewalk next to me. They each have a handle of what looks like a big hockey equipment bag and they’re immediately followed by a third kid, also about the same age, also roller blading, skating after them screaming, ‘Stop them, they’re stealing my bag!’”
Despite his initial skepticism that the whole thing was a prank between friends, “I leapt off the steps in dramatic fashion and went running up the street after them in a very cartoonish, like bounding, sprint. And of course every tourist in the world is there and all the big old chunky video cameras come up as one. And so the first two kids are like, ‘Why are we on TV now? What’s going on?’ You turn around and there’s the third kid, still screaming, ‘stop them! They’re stealing my bag!’ And behind him coming up the street, this is silver-and-black-clad superhero, cape flowing in the wind. They dropped the bag and took off, and the third kid stops, picks up the bag, turns around and says, ‘Thank you so much, they were stealing my bag.’”
When asked if his frequent superhero outings have primed him to look for opportunities to jump into action, Chad demurred. “Do I look for these situations? No, no, quite the opposite. I’d really rather not — if it was up to me, I just would’ve just gone to see Batman and had a couple of beers beforehand and gone home. But I mean, that’s why the first aid’s so important,” he said. “Everyone should get some first aid training, because you just never know when it’s gonna happen. You just never know.”