Jacob Dawes is pictured with his family at age 15, after surviving a cardiac arrest. (Courtesy: Montreal Children's Hospital)

Source: CTV Montreal

The night her then 15-year-old son went into cardiac arrest while playing hockey in a West Island arena almost three years ago will be etched in Rose Bloom’s mind forever.

“It was very surreal, very difficult to process in that moment,” Bloom said.

How could her supposedly healthy, athletic child abruptly collapse like a ton of bricks onto the ice in mid-play?

Jacob Dawes, on the other hand, now 18, only remembers bits and pieces of the day that preceded it.

“Throughout that day I think I was renovating the cottage with my father and I came home and went to hockey…that’s all I can remember,” he said.

Dawes’ much-improved health and the family’s donation of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) to the town of Saint-Lazare where they live have helped them deal with the aftermath of a life-changing event.

The teenager suffered the cardiac arrest during the first period of a regular hockey game in November 2019.

“He kind of fell like a tree,” he didn’t try to break his fall, Bloom said, and he didn’t try to get up – he didn’t move at all. It became clear pretty quickly that something was just not okay.”

She remembers a doctor who was treating Jacob Dawes after he was rushed to the Montreal Children’s Hospital telling the family “he’s not in great shape. It’s hour to hour,” Bloom recounts.

In the devastating days and weeks that followed a 36-hour coma, a battery of tests, and surgery so the teenager could receive an implantable defibrillator it became clear to Bloom, however “that the stars were really aligned for us that night,” she said.

That’s because Dawes, who turned out to have a previously undetected cardiac problem, thankfully, was not alone when his heart suddenly stopped functioning.

Instead, he was at Macdonald Arena at John Abbot College along with hundreds of people. In the crowd were two police officers – one of them his coach, and a team parent who was a retired nurse and who started performing CPR almost immediately.

Equally important for the eventual outcome, the arena had an automatic external defibrillator on site (AED).

“Somebody had their wits about them to go grab the AED…he got two shocks,” which restored a heart rhythm and at least got Dawes breathing again, Bloom explained.

The town of St-Lazare has a new automatic external defibrillator at Westwood Park, thanks to a donation from the Dawes family.


When the dust settled and their lives had regained a sense of normalcy, Bloom started researching and reading up on Jacob’s heart problem.

“You want to understand what happened to my child. And then you read the statistics,” she said.

There are 35 thousand cases of cardiac arrests in Canada each year, according to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation and 80 per cent occur outside of a hospital setting. Only one in ten people survive.

“You need that defibrillator, you really need it in a cardiac arrest situation,” said Bloom, “and we started thinking what can we do to give back, what is it we can do?”

So they made contact with a company called SaveStation and were told that this would be the first such AED installation in Quebec in an outdoor, publicly accessible location.

They chose to install the weather-protected, heated AED station on the exterior of the chalet at Westwood Park in Saint-Lazare because it’s one of the biggest sports parks.

“It’s got a track, it’s close to a school. So the school uses it a lot…football happens there, there’s a rink in the winter,” said Bloom

“Obviously, we hope it’s never going to be used. But if somebody needs it, we’re happy that it’s there,” she said.

The family hopes to inspire others to follow its lead.

After the AED was installed, Bloom learned that a track at the same Saint-Lazare park was dedicated to an avid runner who had died after suffering a cardiac arrest

“I know I scared a lot of people. I know if I was in their shoes I’d have been scared too and I’m glad my parents were able to make our community safer,” said Dawes.