Jiri Fischer

When Detroit Red Wings defenceman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the team's bench after suffering a seizure during the first period of an NHL game against the Nashville Predators in 2005, there were very few people who considered him to be lucky at the time.

But lucky he was. It could have happened while he was home alone, or on a plane, or while driving a car. Instead it happened at the rink before a sold out audience and many more television viewers. Just three rows behind the Red Wings bench sat team doctor Tony Colucci. He was able to attend to Fischer, and save his life.

"I died. I died and I was brought back," Fischer said.

Unconscious for six minutes, Fischer was resuscitated by CPR and by a defibrillator before being rushed to hospital. The exact cause of the attack was never found.

Fischer was previously diagnosed with a heart abnormality in September 2002. Though team doctors took extra pre-cautions with Fischer's health, all Fischler was really worried about his hockey career.

"I wasn't scared about the abnormality," Fischer said. "But I was scared about not playing hockey again. That was a shock for me."

And what a career it would have been. The prized Czech defenseman was a giant at 6'5" and 220lbs blessed with strength and mobility. He had all the tools to develop into an impact NHL player.

But the cardiac arrest of 2005 took away his promising career, and nearly his life. He was initially ordered to take time off with no physical activity. When continuing heart concerns appearing over the next couple of weeks doctors ordered him to never player hockey again.

This time around, Fischer had a much better focus on the big picture.

"It really changed my life for the better. I haven't been this lucky in my life," Fischer told, in hindsight "It was an experience that made my life better. I was able to learn things about my body at age 25 instead of age 60.

"Right now, many people come up to me and they feel sorry for me. They say, 'How are you doing? I hope you can play one day.' I say, I hope I can get healthy one day."

Fischler has made a pretty nice life for himself off the ice. He continues to work with the Detroit Red Wings in player development. He started his own charitable foundation, the Healthy Hope Foundation.

“What we want to share most as part of our foundation is hope. There’s many patients that don’t have hope anymore. They just survive. It’s not fully living. If someone wants to be healthy, they’ve got to keep their hope up. It’s the most important thing of it all. Keep the passion for life.

“The main goal is for everyone to realize how important it is to take personal responsibility in health. I don’t believe that cardiac arrest changes people. I believe it’s the life after. At least that’s what it’s been like for me.


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