One death at the hockey rink was enough.
The Metro Classic Hockey League, an amateur adult program at Motto McLean Ice Arena, lost Dave Schrack to a heart attack more than two years ago.
The hockey players wanted to salvage some good from an episode so horrible, and in the process saw how one man's death can save another man's life.
Schrack was a 50-year-old father of two girls. He felt sick near the end of his team's hockey game on Nov. 7, 2009, walked into the locker room alone and collapsed. He was rushed to the Nebraska Medical Center but couldn't be revived.
“There was a lot of disbelief when Dave died,” said David O'Meara, president of the Metro Classic Hockey League. “It was a mindblower.”
Many wondered if Schrack might have survived if the rink had had an automated external defibrillator, which can jolt the heart back into rhythm.
Players, league officers and Schrack's family vowed to prevent any more heart-attack deaths among hockey players at the rink. They pitched in about $3,500 for defibrillators and supplies for Motto McLean in South Omaha and Tim Moylan-Tranquility Iceplex in west Omaha.
The device, which is the size of a bulky laptop computer, sat mounted in a glass case behind the rink on May 6 of this year. Two intermediate-level teams had just started their midafternoon Sunday game at Motto McLean.
Ron Amedeo, a 34-year-old father of twin 4-year-olds, skated backward toward his team's goalie and fell to the ice. A few players from the previous game stood behind the glass, casually watching and shooting the breeze.
Amedeo lay just to the right of goalie Shane Powers. The goalie waved and yelled to his brother, Council Bluffs chiropractor Cory Powers, who was one of those behind the glass. He hustled onto the ice through a nearby gate, followed by Tim Brady, a hockey player and nurse anesthetist at Creighton University Medical Center.
Amedeo lay on his face and stomach.
Cory Powers and Brady first thought Amedeo had suffered a concussion or neck injury. Shane Powers, the goalie, knew better. He had seen how Amedeo had fallen, face first and limp, without having been hit or contacted in any way, before he slid across the ice and come to a stop near the goalie.
Shane Powers yelled for the defibrillator, which is usually called an AED. Someone called 911.
Dr. Jim Hammel, who played for the other team, skated over from the bench. He, like just about everyone else, thought Amedeo had been accidentally struck with a stick or knocked to the ice.
Hockey players and others gathered around Amedeo. They carefully rolled him onto his back. It grew quiet. Brady and Cory Powers still believed he had suffered a neck injury or concussion. They stabilized his neck.
Hammel got involved after a few seconds when Amedeo remained unconscious.
They put their fingers to his neck and pressed his wrist to check his pulse. Amedeo almost seemed to snore. Then his breath became shallow.
When his color began to turn bluish-purple, everyone knew Amedeo was in trouble.
Brady put his mouth to Amedeo's and breathed a couple breaths. Shane Powers, who at one time was an emergency medical technician, began to attach the AED patches to Amedeo's chest.
Hammel, a heart surgeon at Children's Hospital & Medical Center and transplant surgeon at the Nebraska Medical Center, moved the left patch a bit higher on Amedeo's chest.
The AED whined into shock mode and everyone moved back. The shock came, jolting Amedeo's entire body.
Men placed hockey gloves under Amedeo's head.
Hammel started chest compressions. Amedeo had a pulse and his normal skin color began to return. His eyes remained closed.
Everyone felt relieved when the Omaha Fire Department arrived with its EMTs, who put a neck brace on Amedeo, placed him on a backboard, got him on a stretcher and headed for the Nebraska Medical Center.
The players stood on the ice, dazed. Some hadn't been that nervous while the incident unfolded, but then they were left to their thoughts. ... They chose not to resume the game.
Amedeo's kids were watching TV as their mom, Jeanie Amedeo, washed dishes. She received a text that her husband had suffered a medical crisis and been taken to the hospital.
She hurried to the emergency room and held his hand. She is sure he opened his eyes for a bit. In the intensive care unit that night, personnel asked her what to do if his condition declined.
Doctors thought her husband would be on a ventilator for a couple days, but that night they were able to take him off it. “Ron is very strong,” his wife said.
Hammel thought about whether Amedeo's brain had been denied oxygen too long and whether he would be OK. Cory Powers woke up in the night, wondering if they could have done something better and if they had done enough.
Amedeo's heart had an arrhythmia, evidently because of scar tissue that had built up for unknown reasons. Doctors implanted a device to automatically jolt his heart if it loses its rhythm. He spent a few nights in the hospital and soon resumed light-duty work at his job at a data center.
“I feel better,” he said recently. He remembered nothing of the episode.
The Amedeos figure that the AED and the fast, skilled work of the guys saved his life. “My family is grateful,” Amedeo said. “I am too. But my biggest worry would be not being around for my family.”
Dave Schrack was vice president at Hockenbergs in Omaha, which provides food-service equipment, supplies and floor plans to businesses. “It was a year and a half before I let anybody use his office,” his father, Tom, said.
When his father was told that the AED purchased after Schrack's death had saved a man's life, he stopped, put his hand to his mouth and choked up.
“Thank God,” he said, with tears in his eyes.
Tom Schrack's office is covered with family photographs. He has 17 grandchildren. Dave Schrack is in some of the photographs, balding, smiling.
Schrack's wife, Kim, recalled what joy hockey had given him. He loved the camaraderie, the physical nature of the game, the stress relief. Before games, she would joke to him: “Chew 'em up, spit 'em out.”
“I was married to an awesome, awesome man for 20 years,” she said. As awful as it was to lose him, she's pleased the defibrillator enabled another family's husband and father to live.
“That makes me very, very glad to know that that was there for someone else,” Kim Schrack said. “Oh, I love to hear that.”
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