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‘Luck and professionalism’ kept a Maryland fan alive after a cardiac arrest at Iowa

Longtime Maryland basketball fan Stan Goldstein (right) hugs former Maryland assistant coach Jimmy Patsos during a game against Illinois at the Xfinity Center. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Nearly five decades ago, as Stan Goldstein’s interest in Maryland basketball had begun to swell, he watched an ACC championship game from his apartment in College Park. The Terrapins lost an overtime thriller, and North Carolina State, the conference tournament champion, went on to win the 1974 national title. Goldstein didn’t like that he had to watch the game on television. He wanted to be there in person. So for Goldstein, at the time a 27-year-old recent law school graduate, that became the turning point, and it has led him to college towns up and down the East Coast and now throughout the snowy Midwest each winter.

He committed to traveling to the ACC tournament and some road games from then on. Now 75, he hardly misses a trip — and it’s been that way for the past decade. He loves it all — the towns of Madison, Wis., and Ann Arbor, Mich.; the arena atmospheres at Indiana and Purdue; and the local restaurants that have become favorites. Mostly, he enjoys the camaraderie he’s built with those inside the program.

“Just being part of it is a real special treat for me,” he said.

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So when he returned to his courtside seat at Xfinity Center to watch the Terps face Illinois on Jan. 21, the Maryland coaches and other staffers greeted him with hugs and support. He felt nervous because the previous time he supported the Terps — at Iowa on Jan. 3 — he went into cardiac arrest and lost his pulse twice before reaching the on-campus hospital.

A couple times each season, Goldstein travels with the team, and he did so for that trip to Iowa. The day of the game, Goldstein headed to his go-to breakfast spot in Iowa City with some support staffers, including a few new additions whom he wanted to introduce to this restaurant. At the Hamburg Inn No. 2, Goldstein ordered his customary pie shake, which is essentially a milkshake with a piece of pie mixed in. Goldstein has ordered the version with chocolate bourbon pecan pie for the past few years each time he makes the trip.

After he arrived at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, he visited with Marcus Wilson, a senior-level administrator in Iowa’s athletic department who previously worked at Maryland, and they chatted about Goldstein’s annual pie shake. Goldstein watched the first half as the Terps pushed ahead of the Hawkeyes, but moments before the halftime buzzer, he said, “I just remember getting really excited for a second, then everything got wavy and kind of whitish gray, and that was it.”

Goldstein collapsed not far behind the Maryland bench. Another fan called for Matt Charvat, the Terps’ athletic trainer. Charvat rushed to Goldstein and instructed strength coach Kyle Tarp to alert Iowa’s medical staff.

Seated in the media section nestled between sections of the stands, Azeemuddin Ahmed, the medical director of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, noticed emergency medical technicians and paramedics sprinting toward that corner of the venue. A colleague sitting next to him noticed the commotion behind Maryland’s bench.

Within 30 to 45 seconds, the paramedics had started CPR and provided Goldstein with oxygen. Law enforcement helped clear space as stunned spectators watched in a subdued arena. The medical personnel shocked Goldstein with the ​​defibrillator, and he regained his pulse. The rapid response from the medical staff “is what saved his life,” said Ahmed, who’s also a professor of emergency medicine.

Goldstein was still unconscious when the staff wheeled him on a gurney to the training room, Ahmed said. As they arrived in the training room during halftime, Goldstein went back into cardiac arrest. Again, the early recognition, CPR and shock helped him regain his pulse. He left the arena in an ambulance en route to the hospital that’s just a mile from the arena, and he remembers briefly waking up during the ride, unsure of what had happened. Charvat kept his phone with him during the second half, and before the game ended, he heard Goldstein was responsive.

“All the stars were aligned for my survival,” Goldstein said. “It was a mix of absolute luck and professionalism that kept me alive.”

Goldstein stayed at the hospital for about a week and a half, and the staff never landed on a solid answer as to what caused the cardiac arrest. Goldstein said it wasn’t a heart attack; rather, his heart “got out of rhythm.” Doctors installed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to help prevent future scares.

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This is the third time during the 2021-22 sports season that Iowa’s medical emergency staff has saved the life of a person in cardiac arrest. Wilson, the administrator who oversees event management, said that after all incidents, there’s a meeting to review the team’s execution, and the systems in place all worked effectively. The first responders were recognized at a recent Iowa men’s basketball game, and Goldstein appeared in a video message.

“The biggest reward for us was that Stan was able to go back home and return to supporting Maryland and return to his life,” Ahmed said.

The flood of messages began as soon as Goldstein made it to the hospital. He received a call from Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery, and they realized that Goldstein would have watched McCaffery play during his one season at Wake Forest. Goldstein heard from Maryland interim coach Danny Manning and Athletic Director Damon Evans, along with past coaches Mark Turgeon and Gary Williams. Maryland players and staff compiled a get-well video while he was still in the hospital. It was overwhelming and unexpected, and their support still makes Goldstein get choked up as he reflects.

Once Goldstein’s wife, Sara, and his three children arrived in Iowa City, Wilson helped ensure they felt welcomed and comfortable. He even got Sara, a former Michigan gymnast, tickets to Iowa’s gymnastics meet that weekend so she’d have something to do after the hospital’s visiting hours had ended.

Before traveling back to Maryland, Goldstein wore an Iowa jacket to show his appreciation in a picture with Ahmed, whom he calls “an amazing doctor and even more amazing human being.” Goldstein won’t admit to any newfound affinity for the Hawkeyes’ sports teams, but he considers himself a fan of the emergency medicine staff.

“I love Iowa because they saved my life,” said Goldstein, who is the president of Friends of Maryland Basketball, one of the athletic department’s top groups of donors. “But nothing could ever change the fact that I’m a Terp. That’s where my loyalties lie.”

When Goldstein returned to Maryland’s arena for the Illinois game, he said he restrained himself from “getting too involved in the game.” Usually, he lets the officials know if he doesn’t agree with their calls, but he held back this time. He hopes to soon resume his travel schedule to watch the Terps, perhaps in time for Sunday’s game at Ohio State.

Goldstein suffered a few broken ribs from the CPR, so it’s still painful to sneeze or laugh. But he’s recovering well and feeling stronger. As he recounts that day in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, he combines his memory with what others have told him. He still thinks about it constantly because “I’m just amazed that I’m here,” he said. Goldstein acknowledges and appreciates all the critical actions — and especially the people — that kept him alive.

“They jumped in and saved my life,” he said. “It was an amazing display of a combination of professionalism, care and compassion that was and is overwhelming to me emotionally.”

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