How a defibrillator helped save Fischer's life

Updated: November 22, 2005, 8:03 PM ET
By Joy Russo | ESPN.com

When Jiri Fischer suffered a life-threatening seizure during a game on Monday night, Red Wings team physician Tony Colucci said the worst-case scenario did cross his mind.

Defibrillator
APDefibrillators are housed in most U.S. airports, like here at Chicago O'Hare.

But Colucci quickly added that the quick response of medical personnel and the help of an auto defibrillator saved Fischer's life.

It was a sobering thought.

Just like on-ice officials, medical staffs seem to blend into the game and are hardly ever noticed except for the quick player fix-up on the bench.

But in those rare circumstances, like the one Monday night in Detroit, team medical staffs are the most important ally for a player or fan.

The NHL said it staffs every arena with an EMS team, and each of those teams has a defibrillator on hand.

A recent report in Popular Mechanics magazine notes that automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, are frequently used at airports and stadiums, and that the Food and Drug Administration decided the benefits of increasing the use of AEDs outweighed the risks. The FDA approved one model -- the HeartStart OnSite Defibrillator -- in February.

Anyone can purchase the HeartStart model -- it is currently being sold on Amazon.com for $1,294.99. According to the American Heart Association, most AEDs cost between $1,500-$2,000.

According to the report, the AEDs automatically analyzes the heart's rhythm and delivers the shock only if the victim needs it, taking away the threat of causing cardiac arrest by shocking someone who doesn't need it.

Compared to manual defibrillators, which need medical professionals to interpret the heart rhythms on the devices, AEDs automatically analyze the heart rhythms, making it possible for non-medical personnel to administer help and taking away the threat of an accidental shock.

OTL: THE ATHLETE'S HEART
Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer is the fourth pro athlete this year who had to be treated in a life-threatening incident. The results have ranged from an amazing comeback by the Patriots Tedy Bruschi, to the death of the NBA's Jason Collier and the NFL's Thomas Herrion. Tonight on Outside The Lines, Bob Ley examines the advice and care pro athletes are receiving (ESPN, 1:10 a.m. ET).

Colucci said Tuesday that the AED was vital to helping the Red Wings medical staff treat Fischer. On the second application of the AED, Fischer received a shock. Colucci added that everyone on the Red Wings medical staff knew how to use the AED.

After use of the AED and CPR, Fischer's blood pressure and heart rate were stable by the time he got to the hospital.

"There's no way to speculate on what triggered it," Colucci said at Tuesday's news conference.

But Colucci and his staff were thankful they were able to stabilize Fischer.

Said Colucci of the AEDs: "Everyone should have one of them."

Joy Russo is the NHL editor for ESPN.com.

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