Man collapses at Twin Rinks

Colin MacLean
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Defibrillator used to keep him alive until help arrives

A recreational hockey player collapsed in Twin Rinks Monday evening. An automated external defibrillator, like the one above, was used to keep him alive until paramedics arrived. — Telegram file photo

A man collapsed on the ice Monday night while playing recreational hockey at Twin Rinks in St. John’s, and an automated external defibrillator (AED) is being credited with keeping him alive.

“Without that, I don’t think there would have been a chance in hell,” said Dr. Randy Smith, who happened to be in the building at the time and who gave him CPR.

It’s unclear exactly what happened to the man. Second-hand accounts say he was reaching for the puck when he suddenly collapsed onto the ice.

As of Tuesday afternoon he was in stable condition in hospital. Doctors were keeping him in a coma as they monitored his condition.

When contacted by The Telegram the man’s family asked that he not be identified.

However, the family did want to pass along their heartfelt thanks to the people who worked hard to save him.

“We do really appreciate everyone that had helped out. Because right now we probably wouldn’t be where we’re at (if not for them). We’d probably be somewhere else — you know what I mean?” said the man’s spouse.

She also provided the update on his condition and said the family was holding up all right under the circumstances.

“He’s not out of the woods, but we’ll just take it one day at a time. There’s lots of prayers being said and all that,” she said.

One of the first things she was told upon arriving at the hospital was that the use of the AED likely kept her husband alive long enough to get to the hospital.

“Without the defibrillator I don’t think he would be here,” she said.

Smith agrees.

A physician for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent working in the St. Clare's Mercy Hospital emergency room, Smith was watching junior hockey in the rink opposite to where the man collapsed. The time was between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

“Just out of the blue, this gentleman, this massive big man, comes bouldering through the door ... shouting ‘is there anybody here who knows CPR?” recalled Smith.

Answering the call for help, he made his way out onto the ice. The man was flat on his back as Smith checked his vital signs.

He was not drawing breath, and if his heart was beating it was so weak Smith could barely feel it.

He started CPR, compressing the man’s chest as one of the players, still dressed in his gear, provided breath.

This went on for a couple of minutes before one of the Twin Rinks staff fetched one of the two AEDs in the facility.

The devices are about the size of a shoebox and can produce an electric shock strong enough to jump-start a human heart. The process is almost entirely automatic. They even speak to whoever is using them, walking the person through the process.

Between the rink staffer, Smith and the hockey player, the AED was used and the man’s heart started a very faint beat.

They kept up CPR for several more minutes until paramedics arrived and rushed the unconscious man to hospital.

Smith explained that he’s used thousands of defibrillators throughout his career but this was the first time he’d used an automatic one.

Thinking about the Twin Rinks situation in hindsight, he heaped praise on the devices.

“It certainly gives credit to the people who worked so hard to get these things in stadiums,” he said.  

Following the heart-related deaths of two people in local hockey rinks in 2009, the Heart and Stroke Foundation started a provincial campaign to equip arenas with AEDs. Twin Rinks got one of those devices and purchased another.

Arena Manager Bonnie Evans told The Telegram that all her staff are certified in first aid. She also expressed pride in the way her people handled themselves in what was certainly a tense situation.

Organizations: Mercy Hospital, Heart and Stroke Foundation

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Recent comments

  • Kayla
    April 11, 2012 - 14:48

    AMAZING!! I was at this Rink at the time. I am so happy to hear this..all the best to him and his family!!!

  • Michael
    April 11, 2012 - 12:41

    It's important to remember that as the numbers of recreational hockey players increases, proper training for CPR / Heart Saver / First Aid courses should be made mandatory and kept up to date for percentages of players in your leagues. The quick actions of the players on the ice was vital here.

  • Sharon Cook
    April 11, 2012 - 10:21

    Amazing device and every arena should have a AED! God bless the arena staff and hockey players that they knew how to use it and administered it quickly.

  • Mary Lynn
    April 11, 2012 - 09:22

    Great article - a 'good news' story!

  • Turry from town
    April 11, 2012 - 08:58

    Great job by the people at Twinn Rinks! There should be a mandatory AED at every sports facility in the province and trained personnel on duty during hours of operation.These are life and death situations. Sports and charity groups should raise money so that these devices are available in places where they may be needed.

  • Jason
    April 11, 2012 - 07:14

    Great job everyone !! I'm sure the man's family are more than greatful !