A UW-L student and two recent alums say emergency training through UW-L’s Recreational Sports Department has given them the confidence and skills to act when life-threatening events happen — even during summer vacation.
UW-L student Peter Molnar was walking home in his hometown in Sarvar, Hungary on a July night when he heard a woman calling from the window of an apartment on the other side of the street to “please call an ambulance!”
Lisa Leedham, ’12, and Zach Schaeffer, ’13, were just returning from a kayak trip in Minnesota’s Banning State Park in June when a young man approached frantically saying his friend had fallen from a cliff.
Molnar, Leedham and Schaeffer agree, after the fact, they were amazed how calm they could stay when a life was on the line.
“I really felt like I have to give a lot of credit to the REC (Recreational Eagle Center) and to the Emergency Response Team,” says Molnar. “They really prepare us well for these kind of situations and we can use it outside of work.”
The REC’s leadership and programming team — a group of 85 students — are all certified in CPR, first aid and AED. They have formal training in the fall and spring, which serves as a refresher on their certification. Throughout the year a subgroup — the Emergency Response Team — leads mock scenarios where REC staff get a surprise review of how to handle an emergency. Also, all Outdoor Connection trip leaders are Wilderness First Responder certified.
“Being prepared and able to handle anything from a first aid situation to a life threatening emergency is essential for REC staff,” says Mo McAlpine, associate director of UW-L Rec Sports. “Nowadays, it’s not necessarily if it will happen, but when.”
In January 2010 UW-L student Clare Malinowski was saved because her friends and REC staff immediately responded after her heart stopped beating during a REC kick boxing class. They began CPR and administered shocks to Malinowski with the defibrillator until The La Crosse Fire Department and Tri-State Ambulance arrived.
Banning State Park, Minnesota
Leedham and Schaeffer were also able to react until the paramedics arrived at the base of the cliff at Banning State Park. The woman had fallen about 25 feet and was lying on the forest floor with a concussion, dislocated elbow and potential spine injury. Through the Outdoor Connection’s Wilderness First Responder training and other REC training, Leedham knew how to stabilize the woman and communicate to keep her conscious. She updated paramedics when they arrived. Then, she and Schaeffer helped evacuate the woman.
“Because of my training, I was able to help and contribute to situation and keep the
communication alive,” says Leedham. “They push at the REC how important it is to communicate so that no one is doing anything at random that could be dangerous.”
When it was over, Leedham was surprised how well she was able to respond.
Molnar felt the same way after the events unfolded in the apartment in Hungary.
Before he ventured up to the apartment, the thought crossed his mind to just keep walking. Molnar could see other neighbors were around and already trying to help the woman who had yelled to call 911. But he also wondered if his REC CPR, first aid and Emergency Response Team training separated him from the average onlooker.
“I realized I shouldn’t just be a bystander and watch the whole situation from outside,” says Molnar. “What if I can help since I am certified and have practiced similar situations before?”
He headed up the apartment steps and found the mother and neighbor at the side of an unconscious woman who the mother reported had diabetes. An ambulance was on its way, but the mother was in a state of panic and the neighbor was attempting to help, but was not sure what to do.
Molnar checked the unconscious woman for signs of life. Although she was having difficulty breathing, air was going into her lungs as her chest was rising and falling.
While they waited for the ambulance to arrive, Molnar tried to calm the mother and sent someone down to the apartment door to help the paramedics find the apartment. When the paramedics arrived, Molnar was able to assist them in restoring the victim’s low blood sugar to a normal level. The victim woke up about three minutes later. She was well and fully conscious.
Molnar was surprised how calm he could stay during the emergency — clearly thinking through what he would do if the young woman’s breathing stopped.
These experiences are a powerful stories of the impact of ERT and REC training, says McAlpine.
“We are accomplishing great things by preparing all of us to deal with emergencies, no matter when and where they happen,” she notes.
McAlpine says the Rec Sports Department is grateful for past and present students who have provided leadership and served on the ERT. She also thanks the Exercise and Sports Science Department for its support and assistance with training, certifications and past coverage provided by student athletic trainers.
Learn more about Rec Sports.
What is ERT?
The REC’s emergency response team is a student-led group that prepares REC staff for dealing with emergency situations. The ERT team has training above and beyond REC staff, which allows them to lead mock emergency scenarios — called Red Shirt Reviews — from sprained ankles to life-threatening situations.