After a successful career on hockey’s largest stage, and nearly losing his life on the bench in 2014, Rich Peverley has begun an initiative to improve the survival rates for cardiac arrest episodes in Canada. In partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Pevs Protects has provided automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and CPR training for Canadian students in the hope that they can one day save a life.

Mediaplanet: Can you describe what happened the night of your episode?

Rich Peverley: I basically blacked out. I started the game by playing a few shifts. I remember skating back to the bench and putting my head down. 

MP: What was it like waking up in the tunnel after you were revived?

RP: When I first opened my eyes, I saw flashes and a woman trying to get my attention.  I requested some space to breathe.   

MP: What steps were taken to revive you?

RP: First, it was my teammates and coaches that were calling for help. Then I was taken to a safer place to have my equipment cut off and CPR given by doctors and a fan who happened to be a nurse. They performed CPR until the paramedics arrived with an AED. It took one shock for my heart to start working properly again.

MP: Who was there for you when the incident took place?

RP: I was in the arena playing with teammates and against some of my friends from the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was in front of the fans in Dallas. My wife and daughter were there, as well as her brother, and my nephew.  

MP: What do you think might have happened if there wasn’t an AED available on site? 

RP: If there wasn’t an AED on site, my chances of survival would have been slim. There is not a day that goes by where I do not feel blessed and lucky that there was an AED on site and people who knew how to use it.

MP: Can you speak a bit about Pevs Protects and what caused you to start the initiative?

RP: My wife and I started this initiative to help improve the survival rates of cardiac arrest. We know that I would not be here without people having CPR and AED training — a life-saving skill that everyone can learn and use. This is our way to give back and say thank you.

MP: Why is it important to have AEDs in public spaces?

RP: Each year, in Canada, there are approximately 40,000 cardiac arrests. I have learned through my incident that cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time. The more AEDs we have accessible, the more we can protect the lives of those in our community. There is a high need for AEDs in public spaces and it’s essential that people have CPR and AED training to know what to do if an incident arises. These are important life skills that we should all possess.

MP: What are one or two facts Canadians might not know about cardiac arrest?

RP: Only 1 in 10 survives a cardiac arrest that happens outside of a hospital. And AEDs are incredibly simple to use and foolproof. Once you open up the case, listen to the step-by-step voice directions. You can’t accidentally shock the person. It will only shock if it’s required.

MP: How does having an AED on site improve one’s rate of survival if they suddenly go into cardiac arrest?

RP: Having an AED and people ready and willing to use it is life-saving for someone suffering a cardiac arrest. In fact, the chance of surviving a cardiac arrest doubles when early CPR is used in combination with an AED in the first few minutes.

MP: Where do you see Canada in the future, regarding the regular implementation of AEDs?

RP: A future goal we have is to ensure there are AEDs in all schools and areas where there is high community member traffic.  We are also trying to put a focus on requiring students to have their CPR and AED training before they graduate school or making it a mandatory part of receiving their driver’s training. I think it’s important for people to know that you don’t have to be a doctor or nurse to save someone’s life. If you witness someone having a cardiac arrest, you’ll know what to do and have the confidence to help save that person’s life.