Care During a Crisis

June 7, 2018

Last fall, Chely Arias, ATC, was just two months into her first full-time job as an Athletic Trainer for Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas, Nev., when a student-athlete rushed into the athletic training room to say a girl had fainted on the baseball field. Arias’ quick thinking and immediate action helped keep the victim alive.

According to an article Arias wrote for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ website, she checked the girl’s vital signs and called her name when she got to the scene, but there was no response. Then, Arias started CPR, sent a student to get the automated external defibrillator (AED), and asked a coach to call 911.

Although she had performed CPR on mannequins before, this was the first time Arias had used it on a person. She questioned her technique in the moment but trusted her training.

“So it was muscle memory,” Arias wrote. “I was like, ‘OK, I know how to do this. So just do it.’”

It took a couple of minutes for the student to return with the AED. In that time, Arias had cut the girl’s shirt in order to apply the paddles as soon as possible.

“I shocked her and continued CPR,” Arias wrote. “Finally, on the third shock, the AED read a pulse. She still wasn’t responsive, and it wasn’t a strong pulse, but it was something.”

The girl’s parents arrived before emergency medical services (EMS) but didn’t interfere while Arias was working. In hindsight, she says this was a key in the incident’s positive outcome.

“Sometimes in a situation as serious as this, if the parents are there, they want to jump in and take over,” Arias wrote. “But they were good enough to stand back and let me do what I had to do, and I think that’s what helped make this a successful story and not a tragedy.”

When EMS arrived, they unhooked the AED and transported the girl to the hospital. Arias stayed behind, where she tried to process the ordeal.

“From the time I got there until the time EMS arrived was 11 minutes. Anything in between that, I couldn’t tell you much, because to a certain extent, I drew a blank. I was just so focused on her,” Arias wrote. “When EMS arrived, I remember being mentally exhausted.”

The incident stuck with Arias for the rest of the day. As she replayed it in her mind, she began questioning her approach.

“That night, I didn’t sleep,” Arias wrote. “I was constantly thinking, ‘What could I have done differently? Could I have gotten there faster? What would’ve happened if I didn’t have the AED?’ I had all these thoughts going through my mind. But I realized, ‘OK, if this ever happens again, I wouldn’t mind it going exactly as it did.’”

The girl who collapsed went on to recover. Although the overall result was positive, Arias hopes she doesn’t have to face the same kind of unforgettable situation again.

“I’m now at Arbor View High School [in Las Vegas], where I’m back to taping ankles, dealing with sprained ankles and broken bones,” she wrote. “I’d rather [deal with] a fractured ankle or a dislocated elbow—whatever the injury may be—than have someone’s heart stop beating again.”

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