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Quick Action Saves Player Whose Heart Stops at Game. Now He Needs Your Help.

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Quick Action Saves Player Whose Heart Stops at Game. Now He Needs Your Help.

Tevita Bryce in action for Montclair. He went into cardiac arrest during a game and was saved.= by the opposing team's trainer, some spectators, and players from both teams.

Three rugby players, a longtime rugby coach and administrator, and a trained sports medicine professional saved another rugby player's life over the weekend in New Jersey.

this happened during a men's club playoff game between heated rivals Montclair and Morris. During the game, Montclair was trying to get out of their end and shipped the ball to Tevita Bryce, a massive inside center who had played some professional rugby in Japan. Bryce set himself up and kicked the ball to touch to relieve pressure. And then he promptly collapsed.

"He fell to his knees first, so everything thinks he's just gassed or hurt his leg or something," said Morris player Jake Feury. "Then he falls to the ground and looks worse. the trainer comes out, and within ten seconds she's doing chest compressions."

Meanwhile, Feury's mother, KJ, and sister, capped Eagle Tess, were watching from the sidelines. Both KJ and Tess are trauma nurses and Tess suggested they go out to help, KJ said to let the AT, Diana Angi Stavrou, do her job, but quickly Bryce went into convulsions and the Feury women ran out to help. Also coming out to help was Morris No. 8 Will Kimball, who is a police offiver, Lopeti Tuipulotu, Bryce's brother-in-law and Montclair prop, Michelle Armonda, who plays for the Morris women's team and had remained after her game to watch the men.

They all started to help.

"They immediately coordinated what they were doing," said Jake Feury. "Some were doing chest compressions, others doing airway breaths, or checking his pulse, and they rotated in this systematic way."

With 911 already called, someone came out with the club's Automated External Defibrillator (AED). AEDs are machines that jump-start hearts. You have to be trained to use one but they are relatively simple to learn. Sports fans might remember that Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen was saved by one after he went into cardiac arrest during a game in June.

This is exactly what was happening on the field in Morris, NJ. Only Tevita Bryce didn't have a dedicated medical staff jumping into action. What he did have was professionals—rugby teams are full of capable professionals of all types, including doctors, nurses, and first responders—and he also was fortunate that KJ Feury had for years insisted that every Morris team, from the youngest on up, should have an AED machine at the game.

So those helping started to set up the AED machine trying to restart Bryce's heart. 

"He was dead," said Jake Feury. "The whole place was in shock, it was lifeless. You could hear a pin drop and it was really, really sad. Then ten minutes in he came back. They said he was breathing and everyone cheered. Then 30 seconds later it reverted. People were crying. We didn't know why it had happened and so players were worried they'd done something."

The team of responders kept working and some minutes later, Bryce's heart and breathing restarted. The first responders arrived and integrated into what everyone else was doing. He was loaded onto the ambulance, and at the hospital he had another heart attack. It turned out that a blood clot in Bryce's groin had traveled to his heart. Emergency surgery removed the clot, but it was something that was not related to playing any sport; it could have happened at any time and in the end he was just fortunate that he'd been around people who could help him.

There were 15 minutes left in the game, with Morris up by seven points. As the ambulance left, the players just stood there and looked at each other, and then the Monclair players just walked over to start the handshake line.

"It was the longest handshake line I have ever been in," said Jake Feury. "Every single handshake was a hug and a talk. Then we walked off the field together."

Feury said he's proud of his mother and sister for helping save Tevita Bryce's life, but he's also proud of all the other rugby players, the AT, and spectators who worked so hard to help too.

"And I'm super thankful for the police and firefighters and EMTs and doctors who did their jobs to save him," he said.

Tevite Bryce is now recovering in the hospital but his medical bills are going to be huge. A GoFundMe has been started to raise money to pay for his care. He is married with a young child.

To see Tevita Bryce's GoFundMe Page go here>>