Iowa basketball manager has life saved by swift-acting trainer at Hawkeyes practice

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Luke Slavens was rebounding basketballs like he does almost every day as a manager for the 19th-ranked Hawkeyes on Jan. 12. It was during a drill near the end of an Iowa basketball practice in preparation for a road trip to Northwestern.

Then, the 20-year-old University of Iowa sophomore started to feel dizzy. Teammates Patrick McCaffery, Joe Toussaint and Joe Wieskamp encouraged him to sit down with team athletic trainer Brad Floy.

“The next thing I know,” Slavens said. “I’m on the ground waking up and breathing really heavily and they’re pumping on my chest.”

Athletic trainer Brad Floy, left, saved the life of team manager Luke Slavens on Jan. 12. They are shown here before Wednesday's game against Rutgers.

What Slavens didn’t know at that point was that his heart had stopped for between two and three minutes.

And that Floy had saved his life.

Floy, a trained CPR instructor, takes the story from when Slavens sat next to him on a chair.

“I started asking him some questions … then he starts to get a little pale,” Floy said. “Then he stops answering my questions.”

Floy got some help to lay Slavens on the ground. Slavens soon went into cardiac arrest, and Floy instructed coaches and players to clear the practice gym.

Floy quickly had a student assistant call 911 and recruited the help of some campus police officers, who were on hand for the women’s game later that day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Floy grabbed a defibrillator, which is always on hand during practices, and sent a charge into Slavens’ chest. The officers helped with the CPR; Floy delivered chest compressions. They repeated that cycle a couple times, maybe for a minute total.

Then, Floy said, “Luke’s arm came up and pushed his mask up off his face."

In other words, he was conscious.

What a comeback.

“It’s not something you can simulate,” said Floy, who several years ago saved an elderly fan who had collapsed near on the Carver-Hawkeye concourse.

Slavens’ cardiac arrest was brought on by a genetic disorder called Brugada Syndrome, which he learned at age 10 that he had. It’s a syndrome that causes unusual electrical activity in the heart, but rarely crops up in the form of a cardiac arrest, even for those who have it. Slavens played sports throughout his childhood without an issue.

Until two Sundays ago, Slavens hadn't had any complications with his heart.

Two days after the cardiac arrest, he had surgery on the night of Iowa’s 75-62 win at Northwestern. By that Saturday, he was back in his Iowa City apartment. On Wednesday, he was behind the Iowa bench at Carver-Hawkeye for a home game against Rutgers. He cannot lift his right arm above shoulder level, because there’s risk of wires currently attached to his heart coming loose.

He cannot drive for the next six months either; state law for someone who has had a recent cardiac arrest.

But those things are just temporary. He’s breathing and feeling good.

Healthy ... and lucky. Most episodes for those with his condition, he’s been told, occur during sleep. There wouldn’t have been anyone to save him if that had happened.

“The scariest part is thinking about if this had happened outside of basketball,” Slavens said. “I’m just happy that I’m back. I’m happy to be here.”

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 25 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.