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In-Depth Look: Athletic Trainers Save the Life of Spectator During Playoff Game

The importance of Athletic Trainers (ATs) has taken center stage nationally as more and more stories are shared of ATs, not only protecting patients during practice, games and other activities, but also keeping participants on the sidelines safe. On February 21, one such event took place at Whitehouse High School in Whitehouse, Texas during the Kilgore vs. Jacksonville basketball playoff game.

Kilgore High School Athletic Trainer Jeffrey A. Davis, MBA, LAT, ATC and Jacksonville High School Head Athletic Trainer Jason Kraus, M.Ed., LAT were both at the playoff game. During the game, Davis and Kraus rendered life-saving emergency care for Lucy Isbell, mother of one of the basketball officials. Davis and Kraus describe the heroic event in their own words during recent Q&A.

Jeffrey Davis And Jason Kraus Images

BOC: What do you like about your position/What motivates you in your role?

Jeffrey A. Davis: I like working with my patients and seeing them compete, along with the camaraderie of working with coaches and other Athletic Trainers.

Jason Kraus: I like that I can have a positive impact on my patient’s life on a day where chances are there are not a not a lot of positive things going for them. My motivation is two-fold. One, I care about making a positive impact on my community and the students. Some of my athletes do not have that person in their life, and I hope to be that for them. Secondly, the challenge. There have been numerous times in this profession where I have been challenged to think outside the box, challenged to rethink an initial assessment, or challenged to push for what I believed was best for my patient.

BOC: You were recently involved in an emergency event during the Kilgore vs. Jacksonville basketball playoff game. How did the situation begin?

Jason Kraus: I was watching a playoff basketball and sitting at the end of the bench with my team, when Riley Rodriguez, a middle school coach and former student athlete of mine, came to get my attention. She told me that someone needed help in the stands, and on the way to the stands, she said that someone was passed out. As I passed Jeff Davis sitting on the bench, I told him we had someone passed out in the stands and that I may need help.

Jeffrey A. Davis: Lucy Isbell and her husband, Larry Isbell were spectators during the playoff basketball game. They were watching because their son who was one the officials working the game. Lucy passed out for no apparent reason, and Riley Rodriguez notified Jason Kraus that help was needed in the stands. Jason ran by me and said that he needed my help.

BOC: Once you learned about Lucy Isbell needing emergency medical assistance, what did you do first?

Jeffrey A. Davis: We both ran up into the stands and found Lucy unconscious and lying on the ground. Jason immediately checked her pulse and told me that we needed to get her to the floor because she had no pulse.

Jason Kraus: I immediately checked if Lucy was breathing or had a pulse, but unfortunately, she did not have a pulse and was not breathing. I made the decision that I practically couldn’t apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in her current position. I grabbed her under her arms and asked someone to grab her legs. Her husband grabbed her legs, and we carried her down about 10 stairs to the gymnasium floor.

BOC: When did you begin CPR?

Jason Kraus: Once we had her on the gymnasium floor, I checked her vital signs again and confirmed that CPR was necessary. I informed Jeff Davis, and by this time, some others had come to help. I called for my AED, which I always travel with, and we immediately started CPR.

Jeffrey A. Davis: We carried her down to the floor and began performing CPR. I started compressions while Jason performed rescue breathing.

BOC: Was there anyone else involved in the life-saving effort?

Jeffrey A. Davis: There were two other health care professionals who joined to assist including Kristi Harris, RN, the School Nurse for Whitehouse High School, and Sharla Shead, NP, the Nurse Practitioner at Christus Trinity Clinic in Kilgore. Kristi helped me with compressions while Sharla monitored pulse, and she also placed the pads from Jason’s AED on Lucy’s chest.

BOC: How was the AED involved?

Jason Kraus: Jeff and Kristi were alternating compressions while I monitored the pulse and gave rescue breaths. The AED was retrieved by Riley Rodriguez and given to one of Whitehouse ISD Resource Officers. We opened the AED, applied the pads, and continued to perform CPR. When the AED was ready, we stopped CPR so the AED could analyze the heart’s rhythm and deliver a shock. This cycle of continuous compressions, breaths and AED use went on for approximately 10 minutes, during which the AED delivered three shocks to try to stabilize her rhythm.

Jeffrey A. Davis: We performed CPR for more than 10 minutes until City of Whitehouse Firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) arrived and transferred her to the hospital for additional care.

BOC: What happened after the EMS arrived?

Jason Kraus: City of Whitehouse Firefighters arrived and took over, and shortly after EMS arrived with a gurney and transported her, all while CPR was continuing. When Lucy left my care, she still did not have a steady pulse, but we were told that it had stabilized in the ambulance.

During the cardiac event, the gym had been cleared, and the teams were sent to the locker rooms. Athletic directors and coaches then discussed what needed to happen for the actual game, a playoff game that needed to be completed. After some discussion, it was decided to continue the game with two officials instead of threesince Lucy’s son had left with her. Jacksonville Indians defeated the Kilgore Bulldogs and advanced to the next round or playoffs.

BOC: What advice do you have for other ATs about administering life-saving measures?

Jeffrey A. Davis: Do not take your CPR and emergency cardiac care training for granted, take it seriously and make sure it is second nature.

Jason Kraus: A year before this event, almost to the day, at a basketball game about 15 miles south of Jacksonville there was an unfortunate event that did not have a positive outcome for a student athlete. I actually talked about that sad event and used it to emphasize the seriousness of CPR training to my coaches as I was instructing them this year at the beginning of the year.

All too often CPR training is thought of as a burden, my biggest piece of advice is emphasizing just how serious this is to your peers and your coaches. If Lucy didn’t have the help from people who took that type of training seriously, she may not be here today.

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