Life has a way of giving its blessings and leading you down the unique path you’re destined for in the most tragic of ways. Tim Deits’ story falls under that circumstance, as he found his blessings through cardiac arrest in an incident where doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of surviving.
On Nov. 11, 2016, Deits was in his garage after just receiving a shipment of hockey equipment he’d been waiting for. His parents had just left the house for a walk. Deits, who was 16 at the time, blacked out and collapsed. When his parents returned home, they found Tim on the garage floor, unconscious and turning blue. His mom instantly called the paramedics while his dad administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
“The only thing I really remember is that I got a delivery for hockey skate wheels,” Deits recently recalled. “I remember putting those on, and that’s the only thing I remember from that day. Everything else is me waking up [in the hospital].”
The ambulance’s arrival demonstrated the severity of the issue at hand because it was accompanied by a police escort, which usually doesn’t occur with medical emergencies involving civilians. While Deits was being rushed to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, paramedics defibrillated him twice. Once they reached the emergency room, they defibrillated him once more, and this time, got a pulse, but Tim’s body had already gone into cardiogenic shock, so they had to move fast.
“We got there in record time,” Deits says. “The doctor said if I had gotten there later, I would’ve been dead.”
As it was, Hoag doctors told Deits’ parents that their son only had a 10 percent chance of surviving. However, Hoag Hospital is a significant location given what happened next.
Deits’ emergency surgery required the use of an Impella heart pump. Hoag was the only Orange County hospital at the time that possessed such a pump for the right side of a chest because in most cases patients who suffer heart attacks need pumps for the left side. After five years of trying to obtain right-sided pumps, Hoag was finally able to get them about two weeks before Deits collapsed.
A team of doctors hooked Deits up to the heart pumps, which helped pump blood to areas that had been weakened and compromised. Then the doctors inserted another pump on the other side, which they credit with saving his life. He stayed in the hospital for nearly two weeks but while recovering at home, he developed a staph infection because of an unsanitary defibrillator. “It was just super painful,” Deits recalled. “I was leaking everywhere.” After that issue was caught and the device was replaced, Deits felt much better.
At the time of the medical emergency, he was a star player on the Edison High School roller hockey team. His life was that of a normal teenage boy who went to school, hung out with friends and played a sport he loved. Cardiac arrest never crossed his mind nor his family’s. One day at practice, Deits did feel lightheaded, but besides going to the bench for a breather, he didn’t think much of it.
Doctor’s concluded the heart attack was caused by the condition arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, where the muscle is replaced by fat or fibrous tissue. It is usually a genetic issue that is passed down, but no one in Deits’ family had ever experienced it.
He is back to a normal life now. He went through a difficult time emotionally because he had to give up playing roller hockey competitively. It was also a long hard road to recovery because of the infection he developed. Nerves often ran high in his household, and it even led his mom to get a job so she could free her mind of the stresses a condition like this can bring to even the most tight-knit families.
“Beside from the problems I went through physically, there were also mental problems, depression horribly,” Deits said. “I honestly just recently got over that about four or five months ago. … Finishing school, man, it’s gotten so much easier.
“The hardest thing was giving up being active,” he continued. “That was pretty much my entire identity. All I did was work out and play hockey. After that I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I started a culinary class in high school, met a few friends and got into cars. I’ve always been into mechanical work and small component work.”
He credits his girlfriend, who he met a year after the incident, with helping him get over his depression and accepting his fate. He could still play roller hockey with friends recreationally, but he focuses more on his job working with IPD, which manufactures car parts and accessories at BBI Autosport in Huntington Beach.
Deits is also interested in working for the company that helped save his life someday.
“The hospital, they had been trying to get the right-side Impella for five years and got clearance to use it two weeks before I got there,” Deits says. “It was so many things that just so happened to be there when I got there, it was great. I have plans to hopefully work for Abiomed, which manufactures the Impellas. I did an internship over there last summer. That went really well.”
Fortunately, since Deits’ cardiac arrest, St. Joseph and Orange Coast hospitals have added Impella heart pumps for the right side.
Because of Deits’s recovery time, he had to finish his junior and senior years at the same time to be able to walk with his Edison High School class. The now-19-year-old graduated last week at a ceremony held at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. Paramedics Travis Ponder and Shawna Parkinson, the first responders who helped save Deits, were present to support him.
Student of journalism; Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Two classes away from BA degree. Intern @ OC Weekly, summer 2019. Intern @ The Beach Comber Spring 2019. Contributing Writer for CSUDH Bulletin Fall 2018/Spring 2019. Contributing Writer at Random Lengths News, 2012-2016. The most misunderstood hidden treasure you’ll ever find. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.