Secondary School

‘Not trying to be a hero’: Athletic trainer prepared for years; then the day came


Secondary School

‘Not trying to be a hero’: Athletic trainer prepared for years; then the day came

Article reposted from The Herald

It’s been a week now since Matt Bressler had the day of his professional life. It’s a day he never wants to experience again, but one that he’ll train for just in case.

Bressler, an athletic trainer at Clover High School, heard his name radioed after school on Oct. 25. He was at football practice. They needed him on the softball field. When he arrived, Bressler found a student athlete unresponsive.

He’d trained for years for just such a scenario. Now, it was time to act.

“That was the first time in a live situation I’ve had to apply it,” Bressler said.

Through the Clover school district, the student’s family gave permission to tell the story of what happened, to thank Bressler and staff. The family declined to comment or give details of the medical incident and did not want the name of the student to be released.

Bressler himself said he isn’t crazy about reliving his actions to publicize the story. But he and the school staff will if it helps show the need for life-saving equipment on school grounds.

“When you get a phone call like that, the first half of it is, how is something like this happening?” said Clover High Principal Rod Ruth, who was away from school but was told that Bressler had resuscitated a student.

“It’s an awful feeling,” Ruth said. “Then you find out how it turned out and the second half is, we had the right people there with the right equipment, trained the right way.”

Clover High School has nine automated external defibrillators. Five are stationed strategically around campus. The athletic training staff has three mobile ones. The school district auditorium has one. The new district aquatic center is getting one to be donated by the Lake Wylie Rotary Club.

Designs of the devices vary, but some go so far as to give verbal commands on when and where to place pads on someone in need of assistance, and read vitals from that person to determine if a shock is necessary.

“If warranted, if it detects it, it will apply an electric shock across the heart,” Bressler said.

School leaders can say little about the incident on the softball field, except that it involved a student who regained consciousness after the device was used. An unresponsive student in need of the equipment isn’t something that someone like Bressler would expect. But there is a reason many of the machines are stationed at athletic sites.

“It is not common with this age group, but there are certain injuries,” he said.

Bryan Dillon, public information officer for the Clover district, said there are other reasons for the equipment, from sport spectators to ticket holders at the auditorium to swimmers at the new aquatic center.

“That’s equally as important an aspect of it,” Dillon said.

Having them accessible throughout school grounds is key.

“Any time the heart stops, then time is always critical,” Bressler said.

Bressler sees athletes all day long. He spends most of his time taping ankles, icing buckets, fielding comments or complaints — important tasks, but far from the critical nature of emergency medical care.

Since the incident, he said, school staff members have thanked him. There have been school and other recognitions.

“I understand what happened,” Bressler said. “I’m not trying to be a hero. I was doing what I was trained to do.”

School leaders said they don’t look at the incident as a trainer helping a student, but as family helping one another.

When Bressler arrived at Clover High in 2008, his wife Kim had been a trainer there four years already. The school keeps at least one trainer on-site during games and practices, meaning student athletes are all but family to the Bresslers for all the time they spend together.

“It works well for us,” Bressler said about he and Kim working the same job, at the same school, for long hours during sports seasons. “It’s seamless now.”

Ruth, the principal, is also a parent; he has two children who are students in the Clover district. He knows what parents expect when students show up by the bus and car loads every morning.

“Every parent has that same experience every morning,” Ruth said. “Are they going to learn something today? Are they going to be safe today?”

Maybe it was coincidence, but Bressler said he had three college interns with him on the day the student needed to be revived. They saw something in one day with Bressler that he had never seen in his more than 20-year career.

Maybe, Bressler thinks, it could help if those students ever find themselves needing to act. Should they, Ruth figures they got about the best education possible.

“The thing that stood out to me was how calm and confident he was,” Ruth said of Bressler. “It’s one thing to train for it. When it happens, that’s when you know or you don’t know how things are going to play out.”

Bressler said he gets why people are making a big deal of his actions. And part of him shies from the attention. The rest is just glad the incident isn’t a far bigger deal than it ended up being.

“It could have,” he said.

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