Miracle “Off” Ice: Quick Action Saves Young Man’s Life at Paul Hruby Ice Arena

Emily PetersenOf the hundreds of hockey games that are played in scores of rinks every Sunday in Illinois, IHOA Official, Jim Paulucci was assigned to officiate a varsity high school game between the OPRF Huskies and the Sandburg Eagles, which was why his girlfriend, Emily Petersen happened to be at Paul Hruby Ice Arena at Ridgeland Commons in Oak Park. Petersen knew she’d enjoy a great game of high school hockey on Sunday, October 5th, but what she didn’t know is that she would save a young man’s life that day.

As the final period of the Huskies vs. Eagles Junior Varsity game was being played, Petersen said, “I saw an OPRF Junior Varsity player, in full hockey gear, run out of the players’ bench and get a spectator from the stands; I then saw a member of the Hruby Ice Arena staff leave the office with what appeared to be a medical box.” Being a nurse practitioner in the pediatric cardiac care unit at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Petersen immediately went to see if she could help. What she found was a 16 year old OPRF varsity player lying unconscious on his side. The player, whose name is not being released out of respect for him and his family, had collapsed during the varsity pre-game warm-up. After determining that the young man had no pulse, Petersen immediately began chest compressions and directed rink staff to call 911.

“Knowing time was of the essence and that it could take paramedics at least 8 minutes to arrive, I asked if the rink had an AED (Automated Emergency Defibrillator). Fortunately they did, and one of the staff went to retrieve it,” said Petersen. “For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by approximately 10%.” She said just as she was instructing the young man assisting her on how to set up the AED, paramedics arrived. Using their own AED the paramedics restored the young hockey player’s heart beat and quickly took him to nearby West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park where it was determined that he had suffered what could have been a fatal cardiac ventricular fibrillation. Without Emily Petersen’s quick action, the outcome would have been very different. The 16 year old varsity player is making excellent progress at Lurie Children’s Hospital on, and as fate would have it, Petersen’s pediatric care unit.

According to the Red Cross, “Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Over 350,000 people will suffer from sudden cardiac arrest this year. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere and at any age. Abnormal heart rhythms, with ventricular fibrillation (VF) is the most common cause of cardiac arrest. VF is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention as a person with VF will collapse within seconds and soon won’t be breathing or have a pulse.”

With her cardiac nursing background Petersen was fortunate to know the three life-saving steps to take:

  • Tell someone to call 9-1-1 and get an AED (if one is available). Begin CPR immediately.
  • Use an AED as soon as it arrives.
  • Continue CPR until trained emergency medical help arrives.

So What Is an AED?

aedThey come in many shapes, sizes and colors – you may have even noticed a small box labeled “emergency defibrillator” hanging on the wall of your office building, a shopping center or ice rink. According to Dr. Alan Ashare, the head of USA Hockey’s Safety and Protective Committee, “an AED is designed to shock an irregularly beating heart back into proper working order. Dr. Ashare has long campaigned to have AEDs in every rink. “It’s a simple device to use and it’s been proven to save lives,” says Ashare. Emily Petersen concurs, “It is an absolute necessity for every rink. Without CPR and the use of an AED the young man would have died Sunday.”

AEDs are very user-friendly and anyone can use them. Once turned on most AEDs will begin talking to you, explaining exactly where to place the electrode pads. The AED will then assess whether or not the person needs a shock. If they do, you simply push a button. AEDs take out “user error” as they will not administer a shock if the patient doesn’t require one – even if the button is pushed. The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found in a mock cardiac arrest, untrained sixth-grade students were able to use AEDs without difficulty.

Does your home rink have an AED? Emily Petersen and the 16 year old OPRF hockey player recovering in her care are very grateful that Paul Hruby Ice Arena does!



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  1. OPRF Hockey Club Honors First Responders at Paul Hruby Ice Arena |
  2. Petersen Receives Nurse Award at 2015 Heroes Breakfast |
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