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Greg K's Story

Jan 13, 2022 (Read the full article here)

It was a normal day for Jeff Zampi, M.D., who had spent most of it performing procedures to treat babies, children, adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease.

And after wrapping up work at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the pediatric cardiologist laced up his skates to hit the ice for a hockey game nearby in Ann Arbor: his Mott team was facing the Ice Cats.
 

But by the third period of the match, Zampi found himself switching back to doctor mode.

After skating back to center ice for the next puck drop, there was a call for help from the opposing team’s bench. As he looked over the bench, he saw a player face down.

He recognized the man’s jersey: No.32.
 

It was Greg Kowalewski, a family friend and father of three. Their 12-year-old sons play on the same hockey team and attend middle school together.
 

Initially Kowalewski seemed to have a pulse, but within 30 seconds it was gone.
 

“That’s when I jumped over the bench and started doing chest compressions,” Zampi said. “You kind of go into war mode when someone’s life is in danger.”
 

Another member of the team ran to get an automated external defibrillator, commonly known as anAED, stored at the rink. Zampi quickly opened the medical device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and deliver electrical shocks if necessary to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.
 

Sure enough, Kowalewski’s heart needed to be shocked. After another few minutes of chest compressions, the 47-year-old’s pulse returned. By the time the ambulance got there nearly 20 minutes later, he was responsive and able to move his hands and feet.

Kowalewski says he felt a little off that day, feeling unstable on the ice, which was unusual having played hockey for nearly 37 years. And he couldn’t catch his breath. But he blamed his asthma and sat down to rest.

 

“That’s when things went from bad to worse. It was a feeling I’d never had in my life, like someone was squeezing my chest and I couldn’t get any air in,” he said. “I started feeling lightheaded and then things started looking white around the edges.”
 

Next thing he knew, he was starting to wake up to people telling him he’d be OK.
 

“It was like out of a movie. All the sound came back in a rush, really loud and startling,” he said. “I remember seeing Jeff over me and hearing him and a teammate encouraging me. My brother-in-law told me my wife was on the way.”

Not until being in the ambulance, did he realize he’d had a sudden cardiac arrest.