Smith receives ‘Lifesaver of the Month’ decoration

From left, Dr. Joseph O’Donnell, Jeff Bowman, Blake Smith, Deb Schrag, Bonnie Schieber and Shayla McDonald gathered to congratulate Smith’s actions.

South Central Kansas Medical Center is honored to announce that Integrity Healthcare Professionals has awarded Blake Smith of Arkansas City the title of Lifesaver of the Month. The decision to award Smith was made following his heroic actions that saved the life of a student-athlete late last month.

Smith is native of Dexter who attended both Cowley College and Southwestern University to study athletic training. Following his graduation in 2016, Smith started as the assistant athletic trainer at Cowley, where he spends his time working with many of the college’s young athletes across several different programs.

The events surrounding Smith’s nomination and award of the lifesaver title transpired late last month. Smith was in attendance of Cowley’s first practice after returning from winter break. It was a light practice, Smith recalled, aimed at getting the athletes back in the swing of the season. Everything about the practice seemed to progress in the usual fashion, until the players gathered for a short break from their activities. It was during this resting period that one of the athletes suddenly collapsed on the gymnasium floor. Smith, who was positioned in the seating area courtside, said that initially he was not overly alarmed by the situation.

“Coming off a break and returning to practice can be fatiguing for many athletes” Smith said, “Sometimes students can faint if they push themselves too hard.”

However, upon approaching the athlete, Smith quickly realized that this was not an ordinary case of fatigue. Smith proceeded to check the vital signs of the student, finding no pulse. Knowing that the following moments could be critical, Smith’s training kicked in as he skillfully followed the correct procedures to preserve the athlete’s life.

“When you get your certification for athletic training, you learn how to do things like perform CPR, and use an AED. They’re things that you hope you never have to use, but we have to be ready in case something like this happens.” Smith said.

After immediately directing a member of the coaching staff to notify emergency services, Smith rushed to obtain his equipment. After performing CPR on the student, it became apparent to the trainer that he would need to use an AED. The device advised Smith that a shock would be necessary to assist the athlete, and he safely utilized the device. Following the shock and a second round of compressions, the student’s pulse returned. Moments later EMS arrived on campus and the student was assisted into an ambulance.

Smith did not stop there, however. In moments where many might freeze or panic, Smith had the mental clarity to brief the paramedics of the events leading up to their arrival, as well as gathering medical information on the student to assist in the quick transition to a medical facility.

“The whole thing lasted maybe a few minutes, but it felt like hours.” Smith said. “I don’t really remember what was going through my mind. It was like I was on autopilot, almost watching myself go through the steps.”

As the student arrived at SCKMC’s emergency department, he had regained responsiveness, although he was able to recall very little.

“Everything just went black.” the student said.

Through tremendous skill and effort, hospital emergency staff was able to stabilize the student, preparing him for transfer to a separate facility’s intensive care unit for further cardiac evaluation. He was eventually diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that has been known to occur in young athletes. The student’s condition is an unlikely risk that comes with continually getting stronger, according to Smith.

“The students that I work with are undoubtably high-caliber athletes, and that comes with possibilities for complications. We do whatever we can to be prepared for situations like this. We always say, ‘If it can happen, it will.’”

Being able to respond to a traumatic event like this with a clear, poised mind is what sets Smith apart from many others.

“Blake's actions are the result of honing instinct into life-saving action through the rigors of superior professional training and education. It is a sincere honor to recognize him as an Integrity Lifesaver.” said Dr. Joseph O’Donnell of Integrity Healthcare.

Smith adamantly credited the efforts of the team’s coaching staff, and their ability to maintain composure and assist the rest of the students throughout the duration of the event. He would also like to give a special thank you to head athletic trainer Jeff Fluty for allowing him to be in the position to work with these young athletes, and to his mother and family for continuing to support him in his career.

Smith gave a message for the student athletes at Cowley as well.

“Never waste an opportunity. You never know when your last practice or game will be. Nobody is bulletproof. Always give it your best and do work that you can be proud of.”

South Central Kansas Medical Center would like to express our most sincere gratitude to Mr. Smith for his actions. Thank you, Blake.

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