Minnetonka grad survives heart scare as Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team manager
Luke Slavens is living his dream of being part of the University of Iowa athletics program as a student manager for the men's basketball program. The 2018 graduate of Minnetonka High School nearly had that dream come to a sudden end. Instead, it turned into a story of teamwork, preparation and perfect timing.
"Fortunately we were prepared for everything for that situation," Iowa Hawkeyes team trainer Brad Floy said.
That "situation" was the moment at a team practice on January 12 when Luke's heart stopped. After feeling light-headed and dizzy while helping players rebound while shooting baskets, he went into cardiac arrest.
Floy immediately sprung into action.
"Checking his pulse. Making sure he's still breathing. Still has a pulse. Then he lost it pretty quickly," Floy said. "Then it was okay, we've gotta act really quick."
Floy had lots of help. A student who works with him called 911 while he grabbed an AED — or Automated External Defibrillator — the team keeps available at all practices and games.
"I probably had it hooked up within less than 30 seconds after losing his pulse," Floy says, stressing it took teamwork to save Luke.
While his student aide had a 911 operator on the line, a public safety officer performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as Floy did chest compressions and used the AED.
"So he had a shock (from the AED) probably within a minute of losing his pulse," Floy said.
Talk about teamwork. More help was arriving. As luck would have it, emergency medical personnel were arriving at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to work a women's basketball game scheduled for a short time later.
Floy and his team already had Luke revived before the EMT's arrived.
"He responded to (the AED) just like you'd hope," Floy said. "One shock. A little CPR…and he was right back. It couldn't have been more textbook for what I teach every day in class."
That's right. Floy isn't just the team trainer, he also teaches CPR at the University of Iowa.
"As athletic trainers, we practice this several times a year, but I get even more practice because I teach others how to do it."
Luke found out all of these details after he got to the emergency room.
"I think I remember him kneeling down next to me, but after that I just blacked out," Slavens said.
He couldn't believe how good he felt after regaining consciousness.
"I felt the chest compressions, but I honestly thought I was going to go back to practice," Slavens said. "Like I thought we were going to prop me up and let's go."
Floy laughs and says Luke made a quick comeback, but going back to practice that quick wasn't an option.
"Most times when people go into cardiac arrest you might get the pulse back from the defibrillation, but getting them to regain consciousness like that within a minute is really rare," Floy said.
Slavens spent a week in the hospital after getting a defibrillator implanted in his chest.
"If my heart ever stops again then it's sort of insurance that it shocks it back to normal," Slavens said.
He was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called Brugada Synrdome many years ago and has had annual check-ups at Mayo Clinic. However, he'd never had a heart episode until last month.
Once Luke was stabilized and in the hands of paramedics, Floy went to check on the players and other team personnel after practice was cut short.
"When they were transporting him I made a lap through the locker room and just told them, 'Hey Luke's okay,'" he said. "The managers and players with tears in their eyes, they were very concerned. Luke's a team manager, but also a friend to all of them."
Luke says every one of the players texted him within an hour or so of his cardiac arrest to check in on him. Many of the players visited him in the hospital, as did coach Fran McCaffery.
The toughest part was calling Luke's parents, John and Maria. They are long-time Hawkeye boosters and were on their way back to their home in Chanhassen when they got the call just 40 miles outside Iowa City. Floy made sure Luke talked directly to them.
Not surprisingly, Luke was more concerned about his parents than himself.
"They were very happy to hear my voice," Luke said. "That was the first thing they said to me. They were extremely grateful for Brad.and everything. They were crying on the phone, but I was trying to keep them calm. I said I'm okay. Don't get in a car crash driving down here because that would just be horrible."
Once Luke was stabilized in the hospital, Floy was finally able to relax a bit and reflect on what had happened.
"I can't speak highly enough for Luke and our managers," Floy says about how hard they all work. "So for me to be able to do something to help one of them after what they do all day long, day in and day out for us…it means a lot to me to be able to help one of them."
Both Slavens and Floy know how lucky they all were. His heart condition isn't triggered by exertion, but could have happened in his sleep or when he was alone and there wouldn't have been anyone there to help him.
"I'm just very grateful for Brad and the entire sports staff and the EMS people just being there," Slavens says. "I just can't be more grateful."
More information about Brugada syndrome can be found at the link here.