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.
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.