Panther GM and coach Jacques Martin and doctors at Buffalo General Hospital said Monday they are hopeful Richard Zednik will be able to continue his career despite suffering a severed carotid artery in Sunday’s game against the Sabres.
Zednik, who underwent surgery for approximately one hour Sunday evening to surgically repair the artery, was resting comfortably Monday evening and was able to talk.
Sonya Noor, M.D., the attending surgeon for Zednik, said there appeared to be no nerve, neck or brain damage, a fear when the carotid artery is clamped. While clamps were in place during Zednik’s surgery, Noor said it was for a very short time.
“So far he looks very good,” Noor said. “He’s awake, oriented. He remembers what happened last night…I think we’ll leave him in the ICU today and move him to the floor in the next couple days.”
Noor said the right winger could start physical activity barring complications within six weeks.
Although the carotid artery was hanging “like a thread,” Noor said, doctors were able to sew the artery together. If the artery had been completely severed, it would have recessed into the neck requiring more extensive surgery.
“He actually asked me when he could go back to training,” Noor said.
But Noor added, “We all were very lucky last night, not just Richard.” In fact, vascular surgeon Richard Curl, who assisted Noor, said Zednik’s cut was approximately an inch-and-a-half deep and wide. Doctors did put a tube in Zednik’s neck to open an airway.
“This was a remarkable injury in that the common carotid artery was severed almost completely in half but nothing else was really injured by this skate blade that went through his neck life a knife,” Curl said.
Zednik, who was cut by a teammates skate midway through the third period, fell to the ice but somehow managed to skate to the Panther bench, where he was met by Panther trainers, teammates, and medical staff from each team.
Les Bisson, M.D., the Sabres’ medical doctor, said Monday he could see Zednik was “profusely bleeding,” as he made his way toward the Panther bench, where he was immediately helped through the walkway to the dressing room and to a stretcher and waiting ambulance.
“He was conscious the entire time,” Bisson said. “He was able to walk back with us.”
Bisson applied pressure to stop the bleeding from Zednik’s neck with one hand and checked Zednik’s pulse with his other hand while emergency personnel provided fluids and oxygen to the Panther forward.
“I kept my hand on top of his carotid artery,” Bisson said. “Richard was asking me not to push so hard. He said, ‘You’re hurting my neck.’ Sorry, I have to push this hard.”
Martin said while the ice was cleaned and Zednik was taken to Buffalo General, the decision was made to continue the game knowing that Zednik was stable. Martin admitted if he was notified of complications, the decision would have been different.
Martin said by the time the Panthers were ready to fly Sunday night out of Buffalo, he was able to inform the players Zednik’s surgery had been successful. He also said he was able to tell most of the players Monday afternoon that Zednik was recuperating comfortably in the hospital. The Panthers, who returned home after going 3-2 on their road trip, must report Tuesday morning back to IncredibleIce to prepare for Wednesday’s game at BankAtlantic Center against Montreal.
The Panthers are only two points out of first place in the Southeast Division and three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with only 26 games remaining.
Zednik will be a tough player to replace. Playing alongside Olli Jokinen and Brett McLean, Zednik had broken out of a scoring slump recently with six goals in his previous four games. Zednik had 15 goals and 11 assists on the season.