Mike Elchuk

Merit Award Winner: Mike Elchuk

I am pleased to nominate Mike Elchuk for the Merit Award. I heard through our local athletic therapy community that Mike Elchuk had performed outstanding emergency care service for a young hockey player in our community. I approached Mike to inquire on what happened because I thought he would be eligible for the CATA Merit Award. After a short period of time listening to his story, I knew he would be eligible. I asked him to send me an email with all the details.

Below you’ll find his account of the experience.

On Friday, April 3, 2015, at our Okotoks Oilers Jr. A spring camp, one of our young prospects, Austin Leducwas hit from behind in a corner of the rink. Austin fell backwards on the ice, landed on his back, and remained in the supine position.

He immediately started yelling, "I can't move! I can't move!"

I ran to Austin and immediately knelt behind him and blocked his C spine. I was there within 10 seconds of the hit. Some of our current players were being the "refs" for the session, so I got one of them to go get my assistant for the camps, Rob Leatherdale. But as the player went off the ice to get him, the gate right beside us in the corner was being opened by Austin’s parents. Both parents were understandably quite upset and the mother knelt down beside us to take her son’s hand. Austin reported not being able to move any of his body parts or feel any sensation (his mother’s touch on his hand). There was a gentleman standing in the gateway as soon as it was opened as well, so I asked him to please call 911.

This all happened within the first 30 - 45 seconds after the hit.

I kept talking to Austin, monitoring his responses (breathing, sensation) basically until the ambulance arrived, which was within 10 minutes of the hit. After the initial shock of the situation wore off, his mother calmed down quite a bit, and was very reassuring to Austin. From my position, I could see that his feet could move quite easily within 3-4 minutes, and sensation came back to every part of his body within 5-6 minutes. (He could feel his mother’s touch on both hands, fingers, etc,).

By the time the ambulance arrived, Austin could not only feel everything, but could move everything (fee, arms, - but with just little motions as I instructed him it was best to not move at all), except he could not close his hands. Once the EMT's arrived, they took over the situation, one taking over the blocking of the C spine, the other instructing us on what to do to help prepare Austin for transport.

Myself, two of our hockey players, and the mother, all assisted in boarding Austin, with the EMT in control of C spine dictating every movement (counts, etc). Once Austin was on the board and strapped in (immobilized), we all lifted him and carried him to the transport cart, which was just off the ice surface. From the time of incident to the loading of Austin onto the ambulance, roughly only 15 -20 minutes had passed.

As awful an injury as this was, it went as smoothly as it possibly could have. It turned out that Austin had compressed his C3 vertebra, and had surgery the following day to have it removed and have his C2 and C4 vertebra fused. From what I've heard since, he was only in a halo for a day or two, then in a collar since then. Again, hearing from other sources, he was released from hospital after 4 or 5 days, and the only thing he is still having trouble with is movement of his left forearm and hand, but I don't know the extent of that.

I think the biggest thing I did in this situation was managing to keep everyone calm throughout the ordeal, especially Austin who never really panicked after I arrived on the scene and started talking to him.  

I understand why we  would want to get this story out there to show the importance of having a certified Athletic Therapist  on teams, no matter what level or what sport, because these types of situations can happen anywhere.