A heart-stopping save? No, a heart-starting one

Flyers' goalie Patrick O’Brien helps revive fan who went into cardiac arrest before Sunday’s game in Gander

Robin Short rshort@thetelegram.com
Published on November 24, 2014

LIFETIME SAVE – Flyers’ netminder Patty O’Brien was called into action long before the start of his team’s Sunday match-up against the Corner Brook Royals. Prior to pre-game warm-ups, O’Brien, a Central Health paramedic, and several other people in attendance, including Gander Mayor Claude Elliott, who is a retired paramedic, and Flyers’ board member and former paramedic Tom Whalen, performed life-saving actions on a man who collapsed at the Gander Community Centre. O’Brien was later called in on-ice duty to replace starting netminder Roger Kennedy.

Kevin Higgins/tc• Media

Gander Flyers goaltender Patrick O’Brien played but 23-plus minutes in Sunday afternoon’s Central-West Senior Hockey League game at the Gander Community Centre, but his biggest save came even before the puck was dropped.

O’Brien, a Central Health paramedic in the Airport Town, was pressed into official duty before Sunday’s game against the Corner Brook Royals when a middle-aged male at the hockey rink went into cardiac arrest.

 “I saw what was going on, and my first reaction was to run and get Patty,” said Gander coach Chris Peach.

O’Brien — wearing his skates, hockey pants and one goal pad — raced from the Flyers’ dressing room and joined Gander mayor and retired paramedic Claude Elliott and Tom Whalen, a Flyers’ board member and also a former paramedic, who were assisting the stricken fan.

The man had no pulse and was not breathing.

“I just hopped in and started chest compressions,” said O’Brien, a 26-year-old Mount Pearl native who graduated from his paramedic program in June and started with Central Health in August.

O’Brien continued chest compressions until on-duty Gander paramedics arrived on the scene, who twice shocked the man with a defibrillator before he was transported to James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre.

“There was lots of help,” said O’Brien, who ensured to single out the work of Elliott and Whelan, who is responsible for game day operations for the Flyers.

“It wasn’t just me,” he said.

“Anyone would have done what I did. I guess it’s just where it was at the rink and I had some of my gear on. But it’s what I do. It happens with some level of regularity (while on duty).”

When the game got under way, Roger Kennedy started for the Flyers, but was replaced by O’Brien late in the second period.

Surprisingly, O’Brien said he wasn’t overly rattled given what happened about an hour before.

“I suppose it might have been easier for me to get ready for the game, given what I do for a living,” he said. “I was probably more nervous because I hadn’t played in a while.”

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