Pocatello referee miraculously revived during high school basketball game

East Idaho Survivors

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East Idaho Survivors

POCATELLO — A Pocatello referee is lucky to be alive after collapsing during a basketball game.

“Doing real well, I feel like I’m on the mend even though I’m still a little sore in the chest,” Brian Underwood says. “I feel okay about being here today. It’s probably a miracle that I am.”

77-Year-old Brian Underwood was reffing a 9th-grade girls basketball game on January 10. Highland was playing Hillcrest. During the 2nd half of the game, he suddenly fell to the floor and was unresponsive with no pulse.

“I think I fell on my elbows actually, and there were people at the gym that took care of me right away,” Underwood says. “I don’t remember anything after I fell.”

Off-duty fireman Jake Liday was at the game and immediately started giving Underwood chest compressions while Keith Forkin, Highland High School’s Athletic director took live-saving measures with an automated external defibrillator.

“I think I handled it as quickly and as professionally as I could. Looking back there are always things that we would have liked to have done a little bit different, but the important thing is that we had the right people there and the right equipment there,” Forkin says.

Doctors say Underwood had a blockage in an artery causing his heart to stop. He is alive because of the many people who helped with his recovery that night. Cardiologist David Gonzalez says it’s rare for people to survive an event like Underwood experienced.

“A large percentage of people like Mr. Underwood don’t ever get to the hospital, and don’t survive the event,” Dr. Gonzalez. “Once you get to the hospital there’s still a large percentage of folks that don’t survive this type of event… You just don’t see very many people like him but you’re seeing more now because of the broad use or ubiquitous availability of the AED.”

Underwood has been refereeing for 30 years. Although doctors have given approval for him to get back on the court, he says it might be time to throw in the towel.

“I can still go to the games of course, but it’s time to hang up the shirt, so to speak,” Underwood says.

To firefighter Liday who played a major role in saving his life, Underwood has a message.

“Thank you very much. You did a great job, you didn’t break any ribs, but they are still mighty sore,” Underwood says.