Ex-Detroit Red Wings G Manny Legace details COVID-19 ordeal

Manny Legace stopped thousands of shots as a goalkeeper for the Detroit Red Wings for six seasons – including during the team’s 2002 Stanley Cup championship run – but he wasn’t prepared for the blow the coronavirus hit him.

Legace, 48, now the Columbus Blue Jackets goalkeeping coach, was moved to tears during a press conference Thursday as he spoke of the ordeal.

He was hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital earlier this month when the virus made it difficult for him to breathe and he developed blood clots in his lungs.

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“I was very scared,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have made a lot of saves in my career, but Henry Ford Macomb made the biggest save of my life.”

Legace, who had not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine when he contracted the virus in mid-August, said he and his wife Giana both had the same pattern of symptoms initially.

But when they were at their home in Novi on Labor Day weekend, their coughs and breathing started to improve as Legace worsened.

He didn’t think it was a big deal.

“I don’t go to the hospital for a cough,” he told her.

A friend suggested that she get a pulse oximeter that could be attached to Legace’s finger to check his blood oxygen levels. It registered 83% – too low.

FILE - Red Wings goalie Manny Legace, back, stops a penalty shot by Avalanche center Mike Ricci during the third period of the Wings 5-2 loss in Alumni game at Coors Field.

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She called the Blue Jackets doctor who was Dr. Anthony Colucci, the medical director of the emergency department at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, called. He advised the Legaces to go to the emergency room.

By the time they made the roughly 50-minute drive to Macomb County, Legace was convinced Colucci would say he was fine and it was just a cough.

“I’m stubborn,” he said, “like a mistake. Obviously, it almost cost me my life.”

Colucci was very worried when he saw Legace that day.

“When I took him back, I immediately put a pulse oximeter on him, he was at 75%, which life can’t sustain for a while,” said Colucci. “His brain and heart and other organs have been deprived of oxygen.”

Legace needed high flow supplemental oxygen and was about to need a ventilator.

“We launched our COVID protocol, which included a CAT scan that showed evidence of COVID pneumonia as well as bilateral blood clots associated with the disease,” said Colucci.

Former Red Wings goalkeeper Manny Legace, left, speaks to Dr.  Anthony Colucci, Medical Director of the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital Emergency Department.  Legace caught the coronavirus in late August and was hospitalized in September.

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Legace was treated with the antiviral drug remdesivir and blood thinners to stop the clotting. In the course of his COVID-19 illness, he said he lost 30 pounds.

“As bad as it was … the scales could have tipped over at any moment while he struggled to breathe while sitting,” said Colucci. “He could have been tipped into a pretty catastrophic cardiac event because of the low oxygen supply. He dodged a bullet.”

Legace’s father has a history of blood clots and he was reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine before contracting the virus.

Now, he said, he is ready to have an injection as soon as his doctors recommend it.

Legace is also back on the ice with the Blue Jackets and works in training camp, although it was not easy.

“Today was probably most of what I’ve done in a while in about three or four weeks,” said Legace. “It’s our second day of camp and we had three ice sessions and I didn’t make the last session.

“I just stand there and tell everyone what to do so that there is really no effort. … press it. “

Even so, he said, he felt a slight improvement every day.

Red Wings goalkeeper Manny Legace pounces on a loose puck after stopping a shot against the Avalanche in the third third of the Wings 5-2 loss in Friday's Alumni game at Coors Field.

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“It looks like the lungs are coming back a little,” said Legace. “Still out of energy, still fighting, and the doc says it … will take a while, but it’s coming back.”

Colucci said he hoped Legace’s symptoms will continue to go away over time.

“Part of that is deconditioning; what effects does it have on the lungs along with the blood clots and then on the status of the heart. And we’ll see how we keep moving, and he’ll be able to tell us and we will,” I’ll get feedback, but the expectation is that he will fully recover.

“This whole COVID thing is still pretty fresh for all of us and we’re just learning something new every day, but the expectation … is that he will fully recover from the COVID.”

Legace has this advice for others: “This isn’t a joke. It really isn’t. And it’s something to take seriously if you get it. If you have trouble breathing, don’t hesitate. Don’t wait. .. get into the hands of doctors. “

Contact Kristen Shamus: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.

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