Essex Junction man thanks doctors who saved his life at UVM game

Published: Jan. 25, 2018 at 4:55 PM EST
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Call it an incredible twist of fate-- David Watson is lucky to be alive after suffering a cardiac arrest at the University of Vermont basketball game Wednesday night at Patrick Gym. If the Essex Junction man had been nearly anywhere else, his odds of survival would have been slim, but no less than three UVM doctors came to his aid.

As sneakers squeaked on the basketball court at UVM Wednesday night, the game suddenly stopped.

"I sat down in my seat next to my son, watched two or three minutes, and after that, I went out," David Watson said.

Watson says he had a cardiac arrest and collapsed in the crowd.

"One of the athletic directors came down toward our bench saying that somebody was down in the stands that needed help," said Dr. Jimmy Slauterbeck, UVM's team physician.

Slauterbeck quickly rushed to perform CPR.

"There was no sign of life. There was no pulse, he was turning gray, it was very dismal. But you don't stop," he said.

And he didn't. Soon, he was joined by two other men who had been attending the game as fans. It turns out both of them are also doctors who work in cardiology at the UVM Medical Center.

"There was no vital signs, no pulse, and there was really over 10 minutes of CPR, which is really a long time," said Dr. Bruce Leavitt, a cardiac surgeon.

The three continued to work on Watson as other emergency responders arrived.

"I was just trying to do everything I could to restore life," Slauterbeck said.

Eventually, they used a portable automated external defibrillator, issuing multiple shocks.

"He recovered a spontaneous rhythm, his color improved substantially, and I thought he had a chance to survive this event," said cardiologist Dr. Joseph Winget.

And survive he did.

"I'm feeling amazingly well," Watson said Thursday.

The 64-year-old says he's had a history of heart disease for about 15 years but it's never caught up with him like this.

Reporter Tyler Dumont: What do you want to say to these doctors?

David Watson: Nothing I can say, other than I owe them my life.

The die-hard UVM basketball fan remains hospitalized as staff members perform ultrasounds of his heart ahead of a surgery next week. He says he's incredibly lucky and credits the doctors who happened to be there for giving him a new outlook on life.

"I've got a brand new grandson, and I've got a lot of things to live for," he said.

Watson will have that newly scheduled bypass surgery Monday. In yet another twist of fate, Dr. Leavitt-- who was at the game and used the defibrillator on Watson-- will perform that surgery.