KELOWNA – They died doing what they loved.
“I was playing hockey,” says Dennis Savage. “I passed the puck, took two more steps and dropped dead. My heart just stopped.”
Savage, a 66-year-old retired police detective, is one of two Ogopogo senior men’s club hockey players who, within the last eight months, died on the ice. Both were brought back to life by teammates and a little machine Savage never thought they would use.
He can't remember what happened after he collapsed, but says it was probably quite similar to a second incident only five months later in August.
Dave Jenkens, a man in his 70’s, was scrimmaging with Savage and some of his teammates in the very same arena, when seemingly without reason, he too fell to the ice.
“I couldn’t believe, after all these years, that it would happen to two of us in the same group within a few months,” he says. “I thought the puck maybe hit him in the head but when I got closer I could see he wasn’t breathing.”
Savage started pulling off Jenkins’ shoulder pads and helmet while another player grabbed the automatic external defibrillator they’ve taken to games and practices for eight years.
It had never been used.
An AED is a portable device that diagnoses heart function and if necessary, delivers an electric current that can restart a heart.
Savage says when the group first considered buying the AED, he was one of those who didn’t think they needed it. Now he says the $40 each player contributed was indeed a wise investment.
“It only took one jolt to get (Jenkens) going again,” Savage says. “I needed three jolts.”
Savage and Jenkins both required bypasses after their cardiac arrests but were cleared to play hockey again within a few months. Despite being dead for several minutes, neither man had organ failure or brain damage.
“Virtually all of us know CPR so I didn’t think it would be that useful,” he says. “I feel differently now.”
Savage says it only took about an hour to learn how to use the AED and now considers it mandatory equipment for clubs like his.
“When we first talked about getting the training as a group and maybe buying the AED I was in my 50s and didn’t think I’d ever need the thing,” he says. “But I’m glad that we had it.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is holding a free CPR/AED training seminar at Mount Boucherie Secondary school on Sunday, Nov. 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. There will also be free blood pressure tests and information on healthy lifestyle choices.
"It's well worth it," Savage says. "Even if you don't master CPR the little bit you do pick up could be the difference between life and death."
To register for the free seminar, visit the Heart and Stroke website.
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