Paramedic calls for more defibrillators after 2 hockey players' lives saved

Pete Wightman and his middle-aged buddies used to joke about the defibrillator at Carleton University's Ice House, where they play hockey every week — but not anymore.

Men went into cardiac arrest at U of O, Carleton University

A member of the Red Menace hockey team (not shown) suffered a cardiac arrest during a game in March. He was revived thanks to a nearby defibrillator. (Submitted by Pete Wightman)

Pete Wightman and his middle-aged buddies used to joke about the defibrillator at Carleton University's Ice House, where they play hockey every week.

"I think in the dressing room over the years, as we'd come off the rink and feel a little more out of shape than the years previous, [there would be] some comments," Wightman said. 

The University of Ottawa arena where a defibrillator was used to start the heart of a hockey player on March 25, 2017. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

But ever since one of their games earlier this month, those jokes have stopped.

During the last play of the game, one of Wightman's teammates collapsed on the ice. The man, in his early 50s, had gone into cardiac arrest. 

One of the players on the opposing team was a doctor and immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation while another player called 911.

The patient had a bit of a body twitch and then he started to regain breathing on his own.- Pete Wightman, teammate

Wightman didn't even take his skates off as he ran for the defibrillator in the reception area of the arena.

He returned less than a minute later and, with the assistance of the doctor, set the machine up and placed the pads on his teammate's chest. 

When the defibrillator prompted him, Wightman pressed the heart-shaped button. The effect was dramatic and immediate.

"The patient had a bit of a body twitch and then he started to regain breathing on his own. He regained a pulse and a heart rate," Wightman said.

By the time paramedics loaded him into the ambulance he was talking — even joking.

Another cardiac arrest Saturday

A defibrillator is an apparatus that's used to restore a normal heartbeat by applying an of an electric current to the chest wall or heart.

The city started installing defibrillators in arenas and public buildings in 2001. There are now about 1,000 of the devices in arenas, libraries, malls and private businesses — and according to the Ottawa Paramedic Service, those defibrillators have saved 120 lives, including the two this month.

This defibrillator at the Carleton University Ice House was used to revive a hockey player on March 17, 2017. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

This past weekend, another hockey player went into cardiac arrest during a game at the University of Ottawa. Once again a defibrillator located in the lobby of the complex saved his life. The man was taken to hospital in critical condition. 

The machines cost about $1,500 each, and a new Toronto-focused study recommends installing them in 24-hour coffee shops and at ATM kiosks.

Ottawa paramedic Chris Stroud would have no problem with defibrillators being easier to access. 

"I'd like to see them more and more — the more of these you have, the closer they are to where people are, the better," Stroud said.