The Mighty Docs

When an emergency strikes on the ice, Mayo Clinic Health System provides a seamless patient experience resulting in a positive outcome.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The Mighty Docs never expected to spring into their real-world roles until faced with a medical emergency in the midst of a game.

It had been a good night of hockey in Altoona, Wisconsin, with the rink filled with the sounds of steel blades on ice, stick taps and the crack of the puck off the boards. But in the second intermission of this recreation league game, everything changed.

One of the players collapsed as he rested on the bench between periods. He was having a heart attack.

This was not just any hockey community, though. Altoona happens to be home to a hockey club called the Mighty Docs. The charitable organization was formed by Mayo Clinic Health System doctors in Eau Claire, the northwest Wisconsin hub of the system.

When the player collapsed, emergency medical care was not far away. Two of his teammates jumped into action.

Donn D. Dexter, M.D., a neurologist, and Patrick L. Roberts, D.P.M., chair of the Division of Podiatry, both of whom practice at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, began CPR and defibrillation using the rink's automated external defibrillator. Police arriving on scene brought a second AED.

"I don't know if I was even thinking, to be honest," Dr. Dexter says. "You just kind of transition to clinical mode and trying to resuscitate the patient and get them back."

"When the first shock didn't do anything, that took wind out of our sails, but we weren't ready to give up," Dr. Dexter says. They set up a second AED. "The second shock is what worked, so then it went from being very gloomy and worried that he wasn't going to make it to being incredibly optimistic."

An ambulance and first responders arrived at the scene and transported the patient. He was in stable condition at Mayo Clinic Health System — Eau Claire a short time later.

"The experience as a whole showed how working together can have a positive outcome," Dr. Roberts says. "Teamwork, from all the Mighty Docs players to the EMTs from Altoona to the physicians at Mayo Clinic Health System — our teammate is still around to skate another day."

The motto of the Mighty Docs has always been "It's more than just the game." The organization in its two-decade existence has raised more than $120,000 for charities and for cancer research.

Drs. Roberts and Dexter hope this experience, too, can provide some greater benefit to the community. They're encouraging others to learn CPR and emergency response techniques — the team even hosted a CPR training at the ice rink.

"I'm very proud of what Mayo does in our community, and proud of this group of guys and gals that play hockey with us," Dr. Dexter says.

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