Almost three years ago, Niklas Lihagen came close to dying during a game. The 26-year old was playing for Orebro in the Swedish Allsvenskan and after taking a hit, he collapsed on the ice. He went into cardiac arrest and fortunately, one of the officials on the ice who also doubled as an ambulance driver began performing CPR and helped save Lihagen's life.
Lihagen hadn't played a game since that incident in Dec. 2009 until Wednesday night. He tried a comeback in Feb. 2011, but his body wasn't ready. Eight months later was when a heart valve was replaced. On Wednesday, after several procedures since that fateful day, he suited up for Orebro during their 7-1 preseason victory over Södertälje, scoring twice.
From Aftonbladet (translated):
He's been through three surgeries and for a long while he had a surgically-implanted defibrillator to control the heart's rhythm and pace. Not until October last year, doctors were able to bring the heart under control with help from a pig's heart valve. "I chose between a mechanical and a biological valve produced from a real pig's valve. Had I chosen the mechanical, I'd never been able to play hockey again and instead I would've been forced to eat anticoagulants for the rest of my life", says Lihagen.
At one point during his recovery Lihagen said he didn't believe he could return to the ice, but with his each promising update from his doctors, the feeling got stronger and stronger. He was cleared to play in March and later given a new contract by Orebro.
Lihagen said he's a better father (his son was 8 months old at the time of the incident) and player because of his experiences over the past three years. His goal of making a comeback has been achieved and he's now eyeing a permanent spot in the lineup.
"I feel no fear at all. You can not think like that, instead it will be fun to play," he said.
Stick-tap Fredrik Hilding for the translation
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy