Dallas Stars Forward Rich Peverley's Season Over After Collapse From Heart Problems

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Stars forward was revived minutes after his heart stopped working correctly on Monday night and will have a permanent procedure to correct the underlying problem soon.

Fourteen seconds.

That's how long it took for the Dallas Stars medical staff to recognize Rich Peverley was in trouble and begin the process of medical treatment, which started with getting him off the bench.  A few steps off the ice, just after a shift, he collapsed, and a controlled panic ensued.

While the players frantically slapped their sticks and tried to get the game stopped, Stars trainers Dave Zeis and Craig Lowry were already checking his pulse and trying to find out what had happened. Seconds later, they were moving him to the tunnel, following the script that had been written just for such uncommon, terrible situations.

The Stars and UT Southwestern held a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, talking through the medical details of Monday's incident as well as Peverley's future from both a health and hockey standpoint.

The short term news is this - Peverley is headed to the Cleveland Clinic to get a cardiac ablation, a procedure that is used to destroy small areas of the heart that are causing rhythm disturbances. Team doctors and Peverley discussed having the procedure in the preseason, when his atrial fibrillation was first discovered, but the 2-3 month recovery time made Peverley push to have it later rather than sooner, and since atrial fibrillation is a relatively common problem that rarely causes such serious complications, doctors felt that was a safe approach.

As far as the press conference itself, it was really, really good to see Rich Peverley.

As Stars general manager Jim Nill put it, "To walk in here and see Rich Peverely walking in here with us, I don't think you can get much better than that."

Peverley attended the first few minutes, read a brief statement thanking a variety of people at the beginning of the press conference and then left. He looked good, too, which I'm sure was reassuring to both Stars fans and his teammates, who apparently have not been able to spend much time visiting him yet as he undergoes more diagnostic testing.

The first people on the list he thanked were the doctors both on scene and at the hospital and the Stars training staff.

They absolutely saved his life.

According to the doctors, including team director of medical services Dr. Robert Dimeff, who did much of the talking, at the bench, Peverley's pulse was thready. Once they got him back to the hallway, they could no longer feel a pulse. It took about one minute for the team to get the AED set up, all the while they were doing CPR, and, as has been previously reported, it took only one shock to bring his heart back to a normal rhythm.

Then he woke up, and the first thing he saw was coach Lindy Ruff standing over him.

"To him, it was the coach looking at him, and it was either he's afraid I'm going to yell at him, and he asked 'How much time is left in the first period?''" Ruff said with a small chuckle. "And I thought 'Don't worry about the first period.'"

Medically, it's a little difficult for the doctors to pin down precisely what happened, as they were focusing mostly on reacting and only had a small rhythm strip once they attache the AED to go off of. Dr. Dimeff said that strip indicated Peverley's heart was bouncing between two abnormal and extremely dangerous rhythms, ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation.

Dr. Sharon Reimold, the cardiologist present at the press conference, said being in those rhythms for more than 4-5 minutes is extremely dangerous, which only underscores the fabulous job the Stars medical and training staff did in this situation.

They were joined by a season ticket holder who was a trauma nurse or doctor (reports varied). No one seems to know her name, but the doctors complimented her proficiency as she helped the team resuscitate him.

As far as how we got to this point, Peverley had a physical in January of 2013 with the Boston Bruins, and at that time, his EKG was normal. But when the Stars did his preseason physical in September, the abnormal rhythm was discovered. Based on blood test and other results, the Stars doctors suspected he'd been in the rhythm for a significant amount of time, perhaps as long as the previous Stanley Cup Finals.

There was nothing the doctors could discover that would have caused it to start, so doctors believed it was most likely the expression of a genetic condition. Peverley's mother has atrial fibrillation as well, though she is obviously older.

At the time, they discussed several options with Peverley and decided to do a cardioversion therapy to reset his heart into a normal rhythm. Once that was effective, they planned for a more permanent procedure in the offseason to permanently address the problem because there would be a 2-3 month recovery time.

As far as whether Peverley should have been playing in the first place, Dimeff called this sort of decompensation "extremely rare." And when talking about his future in hockey, he said they were "Not ready to make that kind of decision yet." It seems like the ablation procedure can be a permanent fix in some cases with one or more applications, so they will likely know more after the procedure is complete.

Until he can get the surgery, he is wearing a device that automatically detects his heart rhythm and will deliver a shock if necessary.

Finally, Ruff discussed the state of the team a bit. Alex Chiasson, who was highly shaken by the event and needed to visit the hospital himself, skated this morning and is apparently doing much better. Ruff said knowing how well Peverley is doing has really helped Chiasson, and that it was nice to see a smile on his face again.

And while the team is starting the process of moving forward nicely with a huge, emotional overtime win in St. Louis, Ruff knows it will be exactly that - a process.

"This doesn't go away in one game," Ruff said "Those emotions, players will carry forward for a good period of time."

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