Swift actions save pro hockey player after collapse at game

St. Louis Blues Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester went into cardiac arrest during a timeout and was revived by EMS personnel from both teams


Elliott Teaford
The Orange County Register

IRVINE, Calif. — St. Louis Blues players Vince Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo were the first to realize something was seriously wrong with teammate Jay Bouwmeester during a television timeout with 7:50 remaining in the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Ducks at Honda Center.

Dunn and Pietrangelo began shouting and waving for help, as they have been coached to do.

In this Jan. 2, 2020 file photo St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester skates against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Denver. Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench during a break in play in the first period, prompting the Blues and Anaheim Ducks to postpone their game Tuesday night, Feb. 11, 2020. Bouwmeester appeared to be awake and alert as he was being transported out of the arena to a hospital.
In this Jan. 2, 2020 file photo St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester skates against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Denver. Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench during a break in play in the first period, prompting the Blues and Anaheim Ducks to postpone their game Tuesday night, Feb. 11, 2020. Bouwmeester appeared to be awake and alert as he was being transported out of the arena to a hospital. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

“Trainer,” they screamed.

Ray Barile, the Blues’ head athletic trainer, responded first to the fallen Bouwmeester, who it turned out was in the midst of a sudden cardiac arrest. Joe Huff and Chad Walker, the Ducks’ athletic trainers, saw and heard the shouts and raced from their bench to aid Bouwmeester.

Dr. Kenton Fibel, the Ducks’ medical director and primary physician, left his seat near the benches and arrived seconds later. EMS personnel stationed nearby and in the Zamboni tunnel across the ice hurried to the bench area as Blues players removed the bench to make room for them.

Medical personnel for the Blues and Ducks had trained for just such an event. Their actions were choreographed and well-rehearsed. Bouwmeester was revived with the aid of chest compressions and a defibrillator, which began within about 60 seconds of his collapse.

Bouwmeester was soon on his way via ambulance to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, located roughly two miles from Honda Center. An emergency-room physician was contacted and apprised of Bouwmeester’s condition so hospital personnel could prepare for his arrival.

“I think, overall, we were happy with the way everyone participated and did their part,” Fibel said. “It took a lot for everyone to come together and each person did a different role that allowed us to accomplish the outcome that we were obviously very happy with.”

Indeed, the teams’ medical personnel were praised for their quick actions, so much so that it might have been a little overwhelming for them and Kevin Taylor, the Ducks’ director of rehabilitation, who also was on the scene Tuesday at Honda Center.

Initially, they did not wish to be interviewed but agreed to speak Friday afternoon about what happened, how they acted so quickly and how they have prepared for such emergencies. To be sure, they were just doing their jobs, but they did them very well and Bouwmeester survived.

Bouwmeester, 36, continues to be hospitalized and underwent a procedure to install an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, a device that restores the heart’s normal rhythm. The procedure was performed by the cardiology team at UCI, headed by Dr. Pranav M. Patel, its chief cardiologist.

The device is similar but more complex than a pacemaker.

The Blues said in a statement they would update Bouwmeester’s condition again next week.

In the wake of similar cardiac episodes involving Jiri Fischer of the Detroit Red Wings and Rich Peverley of the Dallas Stars, the NHL has taken steps to ensure medical personnel can get to the scene quickly and have the appropriate equipment available at a moment’s notice.

Two doctors must be seated within 50 feet of the benches, for instance. A defibrillator must be on each bench during all games and practices, one of several pieces of emergency equipment trainers such as Barile, Huff and Walker carry with them in what’s known as the Red Bag.

“Every building we go to has that same bag with the same contents, so we know when we roll up what we have and we’re prepared,” Walker said. “That was probably the most important thing we had on the bench that night.”

The NHL also has a rehearsal program during the summer and mandates that medical teams practice for emergencies at each club’s home arena. ER physicians, paramedics and arena security members also participate in drills. The Ducks drilled for just such an emergency in September.

There are separate drills for cardiac issues and for severe cuts and head injuries.

“We have to do it before the season,” Huff said. “You go over everything and you try to come up with different possibilities, every scenario, every situation, but when the real thing happens you’ve rehearsed so you don’t think in those situations.

“It just happens. Everybody did their part (Tuesday to aid Bouwmeester). It came together and it was a great team effort and the end result was, obviously, Jay cooperating and pulling the final piece of the puzzle together and surviving.”

Above all, it was imperative to reach Bouwmeester and begin to revive him quickly.

“Their head trainer, Ray, was the first one over at Jay’s side and then everyone then started naturally going into their roles,” Fibel said. Added Huff: “From my vantage point, they (Blues players) started yelling, ‘trainer.’ As soon as that happened, I jumped over the boards and went to their bench. They were removing the bench at that point and I helped. Then I went to Jay’s side.”

Walker thrust his fist into the air, the universal sign to paramedics that help was needed urgently. Usually, it’s easy to see the motion because the trainers are on the ice assisting an injured player. In this case, Bouwmeester was in the bench area, hidden from view by the dasher boards.

The defibrillator was then removed from the Red Bag and Bouwmeester was revived

“Time is of the essence,” Fibel said. “The quicker you administer chest compressions and an AED (the defibrillator) the survival rate is significantly increased. Studies will show us that every minute that goes by after a few minutes the survival rate decreases by about 10 percent. So, every minute is extremely crucial, which is why we practice this as a group because every second that ticks by you’re losing your chance at the potential ability to save somebody’s life.”

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©2020 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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