It's just a game.
Those words echoes in my head as I sat down in my dad's cigar lounge to understand and witness what had just happened to Jay Bouwmeester. The St. Louis Blues veteran defenseman-someone who carries over 1,200 games played in the NHL-collapsed on the bench during Tuesday's game in Anaheim. In a matter of seconds, the concern wasn't over the tied up score on the ice, but the fallen teammate just off of it.
Vince Dunn screamed, Alex Pietrangelo hollered, and the maverick medical staffs of the Blues and Ducks flew into action. It reminded me of when my son was in the hospital, and the moment his heart rate rose to 250, the nurses and doctors came rushing in like an army of helpers.
By the end of the night, Bouwmeester was stable and talking to Pietrangelo in the hospital. There was even some light FaceTime interaction with his teammates, who had stayed in Orange County instead of flying to Las Vegas for Thursday's game. All was well, but Wednesday afternoon provided some answers as Doug Armstrong took the podium in front of the media.
According to Armstrong, Bouwmeester is undergoing a series of tests, trying to figure out what caused an extremely fit 36-year-old professional athlete to suddenly collapse. There are no answers, but Armstrong used the word "positive" with regards to his defenseman. More answers will come later, because let's be honest, doctors and heart specialists need more than 15 hours to solve this problem.
Here's one reason to be optimistic, if you don't mind a personal story. When it comes to the heart and its various functions, the doctors know what they are doing. There is a spreadsheet and method of action with this very important organ. They can identify what's wrong, why it happened, and how to proceed rather quickly-even if it can't be done within a half day. Unlike the brain, the doctors have a road map with the heart.
Eight years ago, my late grandmother took a fall down some steps and hit her head violently. Things didn't look good right off the bat because it was the brain and most of the time, even the greatest neuro-surgeons are shooting in the dark with how to properly fix it-at least for the first 48-72 hours. When I cornered one of the doctors and told them to tell me what they couldn't tell my mom, he had a blank stare about what would happen. "The brain is too unpredictable," he said.
Thankfully, the heart is not, and can be helped, and eventually brought back to full health. Now, let's get you some facts. What you need to know about Jay Bouwmeester's injury:
- The game in Vegas will go on tomorrow night.
- The Ducks game will be made up, and it will be a full 60 minute game with the score staying at 1-1, so the goals and points will count. A date hasn't been set just yet, because the NHL has to juggle a few things.
- If you are looking for past occurrences, look at two cases: Jiri Fischer and Richard Peverley. In 2005, Fischer, playing for the Detroit Red Wings, collapsed and wouldn't make it back to NHL action. He was younger than Bouwmeester. His last completed game played came against the Blues on Nov. 19, 2005.
Peverley, playing for the Dallas Stars, collapsed during a game in 2014, and would never return to NHL action. He even had surgery before that season to correct an irregular heart beat, but it didn't stop him from having an episode on the ice and a week afterwards.
Armstrong seemed to indicate Bouwmeester will make a full recovery, but I wouldn't spell that in language that points to an immediate NHL return. Not yet. Give it time. The most important thing right now is figuring out what happened to him, getting him healthy enough to leave the hospital, and then making sure it won't happen again. Playing the rest of the season or possibly next year is like 4th or 5th on the list, right where it should be.
Personally, if there's any lingering doubt, I hope he hangs up the skates. He just won a Cup, and could even have his name written on the Cup again this summer. He's 36, taken care of, and could accompany the team throughout the rest of the season as a seasoned mind and trusted teammate ... off the ice. That's just me. I don't want to see him go down again. No one does.
The Blues will show precaution and the future will be more defined as the coming days pass and the tests bring back results. Like I said, the heart speaks clearly to medical physicians, so it shouldn't be too long.
Let's tip our caps to the on-hand medical personnel of both the Blues and Ducks as well as the brotherhood of hockey that was on display last night. For a sport that can be overly aggressive and hyper-physical, seeing opponents standing next to each other with their arms around each other was very uplifting.
In the end, it's a family affair on that ice.
What we know is Bouwmeester is doing well, in good spirits, joking a little, and showing signs of being himself after a rough night he'll never forget.
Nobody will forget that night. The night that the message was carved back into our head once again that it's just a game and that doctor visits shouldn't be skipped.
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