Fredericton resident Richard Hebb’s last memory of Wednesday, Jan 18, was getting his friend’s car to head to the Nackawic Arena to play hockey.
His next memory was waking up at the hospital, looking up at his wife, Deanna Hill, wondering where he was and how he got there.
Hebb later discovered he wouldn’t have woken up anywhere without the help and quick action of fellow hockey opponents, teammates and other bystanders.
On May 8, Mary-Lou Price, provincial coordinator of Ambulance NB’s Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) program, visited Nackawic to recognize the life-saving actions of the bystanders — Robert Rogers, Derrick McLellan, Tanya Perry, Troy Cox and Chris Quatermain.
Cox, who is in western Canada, could not attend the ceremony.
Before handing out the certificates, Price recounted the dramatic moments which interrupted a regular Wednesday night hockey game on Jan. 18.
She explained Hebb collapsed to the ice with a cardiac arrest. He was not breathing or conscious when teammates arrived at his side.
Price explained four bystanders took immediate action, and a fifth soon joined them.
“And they did everything right because Richard’s here to tell us his story,” Price said.
McLellan, who was playing against Hebb’s team, recalled the scene.
He said he watched Hebb go down on his own without any attempt to break his fall.
“I thought, ‘That’s really odd,'” McLellan remembered.
He rushed to the fallen player’s side, arriving just after Hebb’s teammate. They immediately removed Hebb’s helmet to see his eyes.
With emergency response training from AV Nackawic, where he works, McLellan jumped into action, providing CPR.
Rogers, Cox and Quartermain soon joined McLellan, and Perry ran onto the ice from the stands.
They quickly called 911, and someone rushed to get the AED near the ice service. They used the portable defibrillator to shock the heart back into action.
The five heroic bystanders continued to perform CPR until the ambulance arrived, which to most seemed like forever.
Ambulance NB paramedics Dexter Flemming and Stephanie Saunders, working out of Woodstock, were already on the highway responding to another downriver call.
“We were rerouted to Nackawic,” said Flemming.
Saunders said they arrived approximately 15 minutes later. Both paramedics said their arrival would have been too late if not for the quick actions of the bystanders.
After stabilizing Hebb, the paramedics, with Perry riding along, transported the patient to Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton.
Hebb thanked Perry but admitted he didn’t remember it.
“Apparently, we had a conversation, but I can’t remember,” Hebb said.
Meanwhile, Hill received a call from the RCMP where she works, saying her husband suffered a medical emergency and was en route to DECH.
She arrived at the hospital approximately 25 minutes before her husband, then anxiously waited until she heard the ambulance’s siren.
The hospital transferred Hebb to the Saint John cardiac unit for treatment.
Hebb shared how he kept waking up and asking his wife where he was and what happened. She would explain the sequence of events each time, and he’d cry.
Eventually, he said, a hospital staff member suggested Hill write the answers on the board in his room. When he asked again, they’d point to the board.
“You were playing hockey in Nackawic. You collapsed on the ice. You had a cardiac arrest. Your teammates saved your life,” he’d read. And start crying again.
Less than a half year since his collapse, Hebb said he’s feeling as healthy as ever.
“I recently did a stress test and aced it,” he said.
Price explained that the May 8 presentation served two significant purposes — to thank the bystanders for their quick action, stress the importance of immediately applying CPR to a fallen victim, and installing AEDs in as many public places as possible.
She said the Nackawic incident shows how lives can be saved, even by untrained bystanders.
“One of the most important links in the chain of survival is the bystander,” she said, “because for every minute defibrillation is delayed to the patient’s side, their chance of survival is decreased by 10 per cent.”
While at least two of the Nackawic bystanders — McLellan through his work and Rogers as a veteran with the Florenceville-Bristol Fire Department — have extensive emergency response training, Price said bystanders without training could still save a life.
She said 911 dispatchers would guide them, and AEDs include easy-to-follow instructions. Still, all those in attendance urged people to get the training.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun
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