UNCW MSAT Students Assist in Local Medical Emergency

March 2023 - Laney High School Athletic Trainer Kristen Thacker '05 was working at the 4A East Regional Wrestling Tournament at the school on Saturday, February 11 when she was called over for an emergency in the stands. A spectator was experiencing a medical emergency. When Thacker approached the man, she found he was not breathing and did not have a pulse. She determined that he was going into cardiac arrest.

UNCW Athletic training students with Laney High School Athletic Trainer Kristen ThackerRobin Bachkosky (left) and Matt Bendixen (right) are students in UNC Wilmington’s the Master of Science in Athletic Training program and are interning with the athletics department Laney High School. They assisted Thacker in resuscitating the man. Bendixen is currently in his first year of the program and Bachkosky will complete her final semester in May.

When the cardiac arrest event occurred, Thacker immediately started CPR while Bachkosky grabbed the emergency medical equipment, most notably the Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Bachkosky assisted with the AED to shock the man’s heart back into rhythm. Then, she handed the bag-valve mask to a physician’s assistant in the stands who began giving rescue breaths. Bendixen arrived at the scene soon after, observed what was occurring, and was ready to assist. The man regained his pulse before EMS arrived and was transported to the hospital.

"One common misconception about athletic training is that athletic trainers only treat sport-related injuries,” says Athletic Training Program Coordinator Steve Zinder. “Athletic trainers not only help prevent injures in sports and other industries, but they are also prepared in life-saving emergency action planning. Their response is extremely critical to ensure optimal outcomes. Robin Bachkosky and Matt Bendixen experienced this first-hand at that wrestling tournament.”

Reflecting on the incident, Thacker stressed, “One of the biggest takeaways that the public should have from this incident is the importance of having certified athletic trainers because I feel like our skillset is often overlooked. A lot of people don't understand what we do or the intricate amount of services that we provide for student athletes. Most people don't think that our job is important until something catastrophic happens,” she said. According to Thacker, there is a  shortage of high school athletic trainers in area high schools and almost zero in middle schools.

UNCW’s Athletic Training program consists of a clinical education component designed to provide real life learning opportunities for students in addition to classroom and laboratory experiences. Students are required to accumulate between 120-200 hours per semester the first year, and 300-500 hours per semester the second year as part of the clinical education plan.

For Bachkosky, her experiences working with Kristen Thacker has made a major impact on her future career plans. “I’ve been applying to high schools to start my career. I definitely see myself following in Kristen’s footsteps and staying in that high school environment. It provides a lot of unique opportunities like this one and there’s a real need for it in the community,” she said.