Published February 2, 2018
Peter Miske had just arrived home from work on Jan. 25 when the phone rang. Miske, a contractor who lives in the Syracuse area with his family, didn’t recognize the number.
“It was a cell number, and I usually don’t pick those up if the number isn’t familiar,” he said. “But for some reason, I picked this one up.”
The person who was calling identified himself as Tom, president of the UB lacrosse club team, Miske recalled. The call was about Miske’s son, John, a senior business and marketing major who is vice president and captain of the team.
Tom told Miske there had been an accident during lacrosse practice. John was on the ground, bleeding out of his mouth. Responders were applying CPR.
“I immediately had the worst feeling I had ever had in my life,” Miske said.
He and his wife, Michelle, rushed to Erie County Medical Center, but could not immediately learn their son’s condition.
“Finally, a doctor came out,” Miske said. “She told us John didn’t have very much of a chance to survive, that he was in very critical condition. She said the CAT scan did not look good … he was intubated, and his heart had stopped.”
Miske said the doctor credited the rapid response by Lt. David Urbanek of University Police, who started CPR on John at Alumni Arena, and the immediate transfer of care to paramedics, who got his heart going again with a defibrillator. She said that, plus continuing CPR in the ambulance, had kept him alive.
Urbanek said that when he responded to the call at Alumni Arena, he found John on the floor. “He had no pulse and was not breathing,” Urbanek said. “I immediately began CPR on him and asked UB Athletics staff for an automated external defibrillator.
“Before going into the gym, I had quickly radioed UPD dispatchers to have them step up responding EMS units coming from Getzville Fire.
“John had lost a great deal of blood, and I needed someone to take over CPR,” Urbanek recalled. “After Getzville emergency responders administered a shock to John with the AED, they were able to regain a pulse in him and he began breathing again.”
Very shortly after that, Urbanek said, Twin City Ambulance EMTs arrived and transported John to ECMC’s trauma center.
Once John was stabilized at ECMC, “doctors in the trauma center knew he had a good chance of brain damage,” Miske said. They placed John in an induced coma and immediately started cooling his body down to about 93 degrees. That temperature was maintained for about 24 hours, and they then started to warm him back up again.
Miske said the doctors were not very optimistic about what was going to happen to John as the warming process began. “They said to be prepared. John could be brain-dead, he could be paralyzed … which the doctors said was a very strong likelihood.”
As John was slowly weaned off the drugs, “one by one, we could see something was happening. He opened his eyes, and when they asked him to move his feet, and do different things, he was able to do those things as well,” Miske said.
“We were all watching John come back to life. He had literally come back from the dead. Even the medical staff was a bit stunned,” he said.
“It is something that is going to affect all of us for the rest of our lives. After he had gotten hit with that lacrosse ball he had been clinically dead … his heart had stopped. He was flatlined.”
By Wednesday, John’s recovery had moved so rapidly that he was cleared for release, and able to walk out of ECMC with his father, mother and older brother, Ryan. That afternoon, the family stopped by University Police offices in Bissell Hall to meet Urbanek.
“The word ‘miracle’ has been used to describe John being here, back with us,” Miske told Urbanek. “Including the medical team at ECMC. We were also told that this could not have happened without the great — and what ECMC doctors are calling incredibly rapid — emergency care from you and the paramedics.”
Urbanek told John that when he arrived at the gym and found that John’s heart had stopped, “I thought we were out of time … almost out of time. It’s what we do,” he said. “All of us here, on the responder end, couldn’t be happier about this outcome.
“This is an almost pure example of how things can work perfectly, if circumstances fall together the right way.”
John noted that he’s always getting on kids playing lacrosse to stay out of the way of shots. “Just get out of the way, I tell them. I will work on that a bit more now, myself,” he said.
Asked by Urbanek about his plans, John said he would return to class on Thursday, and also return to lacrosse with the UB Bulls club team.
“I will hold off playing for a bit, however,” he said. “I want to coach for four to six weeks, and then ease back in … walk, jog, run is my plan.”
John also plans to follow through on taking the CPR classes at UB that he had signed up for before his accident.