Call it divine intervention or serendipity. But an Ellet boys’ basketball player benefited from on-site medical care that turned a scary situation into a minor bump in the road.
In February, the Buchtel and Ellet boys’ basketball teams battled for the Akron City Basketball Championship. Matt Turley, a 6’4” senior player for Ellet, accidentally slammed into a teammate’s chest while going for a loose ball. “Matt’s head was down, like a bull charging,” his mom, Felecia, recalled. “My heart dropped because it wasn’t the usual impact or reaction I have witnessed Matt do over the years. He went down and was not getting back up.”
Akron Children’s Hospital Athletic Trainer Carly Hartman provides athletic training coverage at Buchtel. When she saw Matt lying on the court, she ran over and asked if he was OK. He said his neck hurt, and he felt numbness and tingling in his fingers and toes. “I carefully examined the back of Matt’s neck to gauge his pain level. I activated the EMS team that was on-site for the championship game,” Carly explained. “I held his cervical spine stable until EMS could place him on a stretcher and evacuate him to the Akron Children’s ER. Not knowing the extent of Matt’s injuries, it was critical to keep him as still as possible. I knew he could be paralyzed if he moved the wrong way.”
Although this was her first real-world spine injury, Carly trained for moments like these. “I earned my degree from Ohio University, and they took spine injuries very seriously,” she said. “We would have to practice stabilizing hockey players on a back board … on the ice with players in full pads.”
Felecia and her husband Wayne are EMTs, so they tried to remain calm. “It was a matter of seconds before Carly asked the necessary question and began to hold Matt’s neck in place,” Felecia shared. “My husband and I are parents first – then EMTs. Therefore, we never interfere with treatment when one of our boys gets hurt. But Wayne also works for the Akron Fire Department, so he assisted Carly and the Akron Fire EMTs with getting Matt on the back board and loading him into the ambulance.”
Felecia commends Akron Children’s staff members for their quick action and professionalism. “Carly took the lead and was on point with care and treatment. She stayed calm for being center stage … or more like the center of a basketball court,” Felecia quipped. “As always, the care at the Akron Children’s Emergency Room was top-notch. Although Matt is now 18 years old, I wouldn’t think of taking him somewhere else for treatment.”
Testing and careful observation revealed Matt had a neck strain – commonly known as a stinger. He didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital, but he used a neck collar for a few weeks. “The numbness and tingling slowly diminished after a few days, along with the neck pain,” Felecia said. “Matt was restricted from basketball for a couple weeks, but he’s feeling fine now with no lasting effects from the injury.”
For athletes of any age, it’s scary when a teammate gets carried away on a stretcher. But the Ellet boys kept their focus and won the City Championship game 64-59. “Although Matt missed a few weeks of basketball, his heart was more broken that he couldn’t finish the City Championship game and enjoy the winning celebration with his team,” Felecia said. “His teammates wanted to win the game for him, and they did.”