While fans became consumed by the seconds ticking away in the final minutes of the Michigan versus Notre Dame football game on Sept. 10, Leo Staudacher, a Notre Dame fan, was thankful for another ticking — the beating of his heart.

Staudacher, who suffered a heart attack at the beginning of the second quarter, left the Big House still alive, thanks to Michigan fans Dr. Marvin Sonne, a dentist from Trenton, Mich. and a School of Dentistry alum, and Jan Tardiff, a registered nurse from Bay City, Mich. who performed CPR on Staudacher. The two were presented with “Heartsaver Hero” awards at the American Heart Association’s Washtenaw County Heart Ball this past Saturday.

Dr. Al Dodds, chair of the ball and cardiologist for Michigan Heart at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, awarded Sonne and Tardiff for their ability to effectively apply their CPR training to save Staudacher’s life.

“They were able to prevent brain injury damage because of lack of oxygen by getting in and quickly starting CPR,” Dodds said. “He was saved. It was very fortunate to have people right there who knew CPR.”

Staudacher, a 69 year old from Bay City, said he was enjoying the Notre Dame game with his three sons until the second quarter, when he began to feel extremely exhausted and his arms became achy. As the pain intensified, Staudacher knew something wasn’t right.

“In the back of my mind I’m going, ‘Everything I’m feeling I’ve read about, and it’s been describing a heart attack,’ … and that’s the last thing I remember,” Stuadacher said.

Staudacher’s heart stopped, causing him to collapse onto Sonne in the row in front of him. Sonne said he immediately gave Staudacher mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, believing he had passed out. But when he saw that Staudacher’s condition wasn’t improving, he switched to CPR.

“I was doing chest compressions while others around were screaming for the ushers and other Michigan people to get the emergency people to come,” Sonne said.

One of the fans screaming was Tardiff’s husband. Confused at first by her husband’s behavior, Tardiff said she turned and saw Staudacher had collapsed a few seats down from her in row 60. As chaos in the section erupted as people attempted to reach out for Staudacher or get out of the way, Tardiff said she was determined to use her training as a nurse and assist the fallen stranger.

While Tardiff attempted to reach Staudacher through the crowd, Sonne placed Staudacher flat on the bleachers as he gave him CPR. When Tardiff reached the scene, she started giving him compressions as well, hoping to see a change in Staudacher’s bleak state.

“Leo was not responding, his colors were not good, so we continued to do compressions because at that point, compressions were what we needed to do to try and get that heart going,” Tardiff said.

While Staudacher’s heart failed to respond to CPR, Tardiff said the EMS team moved into the section, which Tardiff’s husband had cleared out, and placed an automated external defibrillator on Staudacher. After shocking him four times, Tardiff said she noticed a miraculous improvement in Staudacher’s condition.

“His color’s starting to come back, he raised his head, looked around in a sense of, ‘What just happened?’ ” Tardiff said.

Staudacher said he remembers regaining consciousness in the stadium, where his sons assured him he was OK. The Huron Valley Ambulance team then assisted him out of the stadium to the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center for treatment.

At the center, a stint was placed in Staudacher’s heart, and it returned to normal conditions. Staudacher watched his beloved Notre Dame lose during the last 30 seconds of the game from his hospital bed, but his own victory in overcoming death supersedes any football win. He added if he had been at home instead of in the Big House during his heart attack, he may not have been so lucky.

“My heart stopped, so I was technically dead for a half a minute,” Staudacher said. “Only about 8 percent of the people survive, and the reason is there isn’t a Marvin Sonne (at home) or a defibrillator there to get your heart started again.”

Staudacher, who is now in good health, couldn’t attend the AHA’s heart ball to present the awards to Sonne and Tardiff due to a business trip, but he said he is grateful for their assistance and for the help of everyone at the University.

For Tardiff, receiving the award from the AHA was an “overwhelming” experience, and she said Staudacher is here today not just because of her actions, but the efforts of everyone in the section, who either assisted Staudacher or moved out of the way to allow room for those who could help.

Though Tardiff has yet to formally meet Staudacher since the incident, she has learned that they are both from the same city and have mutual connections through her co-workers, friends and family.

Sonne said he was “humbled” by being invited to the ball, but he added he doesn’t need an award, as doing the right thing in that situation is expected of everyone.

“I don’t look at this as about us that helped him, I look at it that this man was saved, and he can spend many more years together with his family and friends,” Sonne said.

While Sonne heard Staudacher’s son making negative comments toward Michigan at the start of the game, he said the rivalry between the fans did not have any bearing when it came to assisting Staudacher during the second quarter. Sonne plans to meet Staudacher for the first time on Nov. 11, when Staudacher and his wife Marge visit Sonne’s home and family.

Staudacher said he received personal “Get Well” notes from Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly after the incident, echoing the importance of his victory in the stands over a victory on the field, and highlighting a happening that transcended team rivalries.

Staudacher added that the care from the Michigan fans, the medical team and the University hospital when he was in need has made him a Michigan fan — except when they play Notre Dame — and has allowed him to develop a greater appreciation for human compassion.

“We’re all humans and when a crisis occurs, we come together as the human family to care for one another,” Staudacher said. “In the end, we got to remember it is just a football game, and there are more important things in life, and one of those things is just caring for one another.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.