March 17, 2006

Incident highlights defibrillators’ worth

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Vanderbilt basketball player Davis Nwankwo in action for the Commodores.
Photo by Neil Brake

Incident highlights defibrillators’ worth

The quick actions of athletic trainer Mike Meyer and the availability of an automated external defibrillator (AED) saved the life of Vanderbilt basketball student-athlete Davis Nwankwo last week, said the team physician.

Nwankwo collapsed approximately 15 minutes into practice when he suffered cardiac arrest on March 6 at Memorial Gymnasium. Athletic trainer Mike Meyer was at his side immediately.

“Shortly after his collapse he stopped breathing and a pulse could not be detected,” explained Andrew Gregory, M.D., team physician for Vanderbilt Basketball. “A student trainer had gone to get the automatic defibrillator. The defibrillator indicated a shock was necessary, and one shock was delivered by Meyer.”

That life-saving jolt restored Nwankwo's heartbeat, and two rescue breaths were given by Meyer. Nwankwo then began breathing on his own.

He was quickly transported to Vanderbilt's Emergency Department. Nwankwo, a 19-year-old red-shirt freshman from College Park, Md., was released on March 9 from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Within two minutes of his heart stopping he was administered the life-saving care that he desperately needed,” Gregory said. “The quick actions of Mike Meyer, the emergency responders and the Vanderbilt health care providers saved this young man's life.”

Nwankwo's father, Adam, expressed his gratitude to those who saved his son's life.

“Davis is alive today all because of trainer Mike Meyer. There really are no words or anything that we can do to thank him enough.”

Gregory said the incident revealed that Nwankwo suffered from an enlarged heart, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

“It is, unfortunately, the end of his basketball career,” Gregory said.

Dan Roden, M.D., professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and one of the physicians who cared for Nwankwo, explained that his heart condition is genetic, and is the number one cause of sudden death in athletes.

“Davis would not be alive today had it not been for the quick action of trainer Mike Meyer, and the fact that an AED was readily available,” Roden said. “His case is a great example of the importance of widespread use of AEDs in public places.”

Nwankwo's attending physician, David Slosky, M.D., an assistant professor in the Cardiovascular Medicine division, said his prognosis is good.

“He's a very lucky man,” Slosky said. “The AED, the people, and the proximity to the hospital made a positive difference in the outcome of this incident.”