(Contributed)                                Rob Macdonald (left) had a heart attack at Pitt Meadows Arena on Jan. 17, and Bruce Moffat, a critical care flight paramedic, saved his life.

(Contributed) Rob Macdonald (left) had a heart attack at Pitt Meadows Arena on Jan. 17, and Bruce Moffat, a critical care flight paramedic, saved his life.

Teammates saved hockey player’s life

Rob Macdonald suffered heart attack at Pitt arena, opposing player, teammates came to his rescue.

When Rob Macdonald suffered a heart attack at Pitt Meadows Arena, an opposing player and his teammates came to his rescue.

The 49-year-old was playing an oldtimers league hockey game with the Tri City Chiefs at Pitt Meadows Arena just before 11 p.m. on Jan. 17, when he went into cardiac arrest. But neither Macdonald nor any of his teammates realized it was happening.

It was during the final minutes of the third period when the father of three started to feel sick.

“I was playing a hockey game like I normally do. In the last bit of the final period, I was just having troubles catching my breath after a shift,” Macdonald said from his home in Cloverdale.

He played one more shift, then started to feel nauseous. He just sat on the bench for the last five minutes of the game.

When the game was over, he went onto the ice to shake hands, then headed to the dressing room. He was the first one there and took a knee outside the door. A woman who worked at the rink approached him to ask him if he was alright. He told her how he was feeling and she took his pulse. It was racing a bit and they agreed he would probable feel better once he rested a bit and got off his gear.

Macdonald went into the dressing room and managed to take a shower. His friends kept asking him if he was okay. Finally, he told them he needed help.

That is the last thing he remembers until waking up in the intensive care unit at Royal Columbian Hospital a couple of days later.

Macdonald had gone into cardiac arrest and is to make a full recovery.

Most of that luck is that fact that Bruce Moffat was there that night. Moffat was playing on the opposing team, the Maple Ridge Chiefs. He was just about to take a shower when a couple of guys from the other team said Macdonald needed help.

The guys had been outside calling 9-1-1 and were told by one of Moffat’s teammates that he is a critical care flight paramedic, a job he has performed for the past 35 years.

Moffat found Macdonald lying down on his side on the dressing room floor. Heknew immediately that Macdonald was in cardiac arrest.

Moffat turned Macdonald onto his back and immediately started CPR. Then he asked if anyone in the room knew how to do CPR. Nobody did.

So he told someone to call back the dispatcher and tell them they need advanced life support paramedics, then told somebody else to get him the defibrillator located outside the dressing room.

“Someone got a defib right away, so fast. Then I said, ‘OK, hook it up.’ No one knew how to hook it up,” said Moffat.

He did CPR for two minutes, then hooked up the defibrillator up. But it did not work.

The batteries were dead.

Moffat started compressions again and told somebody to get another defibrillator.

When the second one arrived, he unplugged the pads from the first debrillator and plugged them into the second one, which was working this time. He shocked Macdonald two times.

“I actually tried four times to shock him. The first one, he wasn’t shockable. Twice I shocked him and the fourth time he wasn’t shockable. This is all before the ambulance and fire department got there,” said Moffat.

He was able to teach three of the players how to do CPR when an arena employee entered the dressing room. He also knew how to perform the life-saving compressions.

“I would take a guy and say, ‘Watch what I’m doing. This is what you are going to do.’ Then I would say, ‘Faster, deeper,’ and I would stand there and watch while I rested. And as soon as they would tire, I would take over,” Moffat said.

By the time ambulance and fire arrived, Macdonald had a pulse again and was breathing on his own.

Moffat said it was a team effort that saved Macdonald’s life.

“Everyone did great CPR and that’s why he is walking out of the hospital.”

However, it was Moffat who instructed to call for an advanced life support ambulance.

It was Moffat who thought of the second defibrillator.

He knew the first one wasn’t working.

He knew how to work one.

It was only six minutes from the 9-1-1 call to Macdonald receiving his first shock.

Macdonald managed to avoid open-hear surgery and doctors at Royal Columbian were able to repair his heart with three stints. He will be off work for at least a month.

He has a history of heart problems on his father’s side of the family.

Now, looking back, even as far a Christmas, he sees there were signs that he believes he should have been paying closer attention to.

“I had like a recurring headache for a week and just feeling, sleeping a little bit more than I would normally do. I slept in through my alarm, which I would never do,” he said.

“There were a few little signs that it was like, ‘Okay, I’m worn down for some reason and I don’t know why.’”

Macdonald and Moffat both want to see changes made to men’s league hockey.

Macdonald also coaches minor hockey, where there are lots of protocols in place.

“Like every minor hockey team has a safety person and the safety person has a medical record of every child on the team, you have contacts,” said Macdonald.

“If there is a kid who is injured, there are certain things that have to be done in order to allow them back to play. Men’s hockey, obviously does not work that way,” he said.

Macdonald would like to see every adult team have an emergency contact list. In his case, not one person on his team had his home phone number to notify his family. They had to look it up using the ICBC papers inside of his car.

Macdonald also thinks it should be a requirement that at least one person on every team have CPR training.

He also suggests visiting your doctor regularly.

The four defibrillators at Pitt Meadows Arena Complex will now be checked weekly instead of monthly.

Moffat thinks they should be checked daily.

B.C. Ambulance checks its defibrillators twice a day.

He is submitting everyone’s names who helped out that night for a B.C. Emergency Health Services Vital Link Award, given to citizens who are involved in saving a life through successful cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“It’s a good lesson for the rink, it’s a good lesson for these hockey teams, where you have these middle-aged guys skating around at full speed, to have someone on their team that knows CPR.”