Longtime referee recovering from heart attack

January 28, 2018 GMT

POCATELLO — A referee who suffered a heart attack during a basketball game was able to return home on Tuesday, thanks, in part, to the quick response of several individuals at the game who were able to help save his life.

Brian C. Underwood, 77, was refereeing a girls freshman basketball game between Highland and Hillcrest on Jan. 10, when he suddenly had a heart attack while running down the court.

Jake Liday, a Pocatello firefighter was off duty that night and had come to watch his 14-year-old daughter play basketball. He was sitting in the stands with his family when he saw the referee fall.

“It was evident that when he collapsed, it was very serious. He didn’t trip, or slow down and stagger,” Liday said, adding that the referee didn’t even try to stop his fall. “He was running, following the girls down the court, and fell straight to the ground.”

Keith Forkin, Highland’s head athletic trainer who provides medical coverage during practices and games, sent his student athletic trainer to get a nearby automated external defibrillator (AED), while he, Liday and others rushed to help Underwood.

The referee wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse, so Liday started performing chest compressions. Forkin continued to manage the referee’s airway as another person placed the AED patches on Underwood’s chest, Liday said.

The AED soon gave them a “shock advised” prompt. Underwood was shocked one time as they continued CPR.

Within minutes they were able to feel Underwood’s pulse again, and he began breathing.

“We were obviously relieved, but knew the situation could quickly turn more serious again,” Liday said. “We made sure to manage Mr. Underwood as efficiently as we could until my coworkers arrived from the Pocatello Fire Department.”

They came soon after and Underwood was transported to Portneuf Medical Center, where he received the additional care he needed. Underwood said he had three stents put in before he was released from the hospital.

Underwood said he was treated well at PMC, and he appreciated all of the physical therapists, doctors and nurses — especially Colleen Perkins, a registered nurse in the Critical Care Unit — who cared for him during his hospital stay. And he’s thankful for the many community members who have reached out to him in recent days.

He’s also grateful for those who quickly came to his aid during the basketball game.

“(It was a) life-saving gesture on their part to jump right in and take charge,” Underwood said.

Liday said he is relieved and happy that Underwood is doing so well, and he hopes he continues to make a full recovery.

“Unfortunately in my profession, I see a lot of situations that don’t have as positive of an outcome,” he said. “I think all of us that were there that night were just glad to help out.”

Forkin is grateful, too. Although he has had extensive emergency medical training, he said he has never actually had to perform CPR in the field before. He’s glad that they had an AED available to use — the Portneuf Auxiliary donated one to the school a few years ago — and that there were other people with medical training there that night.

He’s also glad that everything turned out so well.

Underwood, who has been serving as a referee for approximately 30 years, isn’t planning to return to the work at this point. Instead, he will focus on recovering.

In the meantime, he is grateful to be back home and to be alive.

“I feel very lucky to come out on top,” Underwood said.