By all appearances, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at the UAB Campus Recreation Center seemed to be like any other morning. Kinesiology major Hyelim Cho was manning the front desk. Alexis Long, a nursing major, was at the swimming pool, nearing the end of her shift and thinking about her upcoming trip home to Athens. Daniel Balkovetz, an internal medicine physician, was working up a sweat playing a game of basketball on the court with some friends.
Then, everything changed.
A patron, who was playing ball with Balkovetz suddenly fell off the bleachers and was on the ground. Balkovetz ran over to the middle-aged man to check him out.
“He didn’t have a pulse and he wasn’t breathing,” he said.
Right away, Balkovetz began chest compressions on his friend while one of the Recreation Center staff members called out a “Code Silver” on the overhead speaker.
At that sound, Long, who is a sophomore, jumped up, grabbed her trauma bag and headed toward the basketball court. At the same time, Cho got details about the incident over her walkie talkie and called 911.
“It was a lot of pressure, but we are trained to do it,” said Cho, who is a junior from Ecuador.
Long and her student colleague, Trey Hyde, rushed to the floor where the man lay lifeless. After Balkovetz wiped the man’s chest dry, the two students prepared to use the Automatic External Defibrillator, or AED. Long put the pads on his chest and then the machine called out, “Analyzing…Analyzing…Shock Recommended.”
Hyde pushed the button on the AED and suddenly the man convulsed. About 15 seconds later, the man began blinking and asked, “How did I get on the floor?”
“It was amazing to see,” said Long, who is also a residence assistance in Blazer Hall. “Usually, when a code is called people need ice or a Band-Aid, but this was more than that.” And she wasn’t fearful, she said, just focused on getting the job done. “I know this is my responsibility.”
The man was immediately taken to the hospital and was luckily able to be home by Thanksgiving Day.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” said Michelle December, University Recreation’s Assistant Director of Aquatics & Safety. “It’s everything we could have hoped for.” Training is “preached from the top down,” she said, and that is why the students were so prepared.
“Just a few weeks before, we had a drill on what to do if something were to happen so it was fresh on my mind,” Cho said. And Long agreed, “I was thankful that I could be a part of something that changed that man’s life and grateful that I had gone through the process to know what to do.”
“The Rec Center had everything set up within three to four minutes,” Balkovetz, who is a nephrologist, said. “Most people don’t survive. He was in the right place at the right time.”
“It was a team effort,” December said. “I am really grateful for our amazing student and professional staff.