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July, 2016

Merit Award - Michael Elchuk


On Friday, April 3, 2015, at an Okotoks Oilers Jr. A spring camp, a 16 year old prospect was hit from behind in a corner of the rink. The athlete fell backwards to the ice, landing on his back, and remained in the supine position. He immediately started yelling "I can't move, I can't move!!". Mike Elchuk, the Athletic Therapist covering the camp, ran to the athlete and immediately knelt behind him to stabilize his cervical spine.

As the player went off the ice to get the assistant, Mike was joined by the injured athlete’s parents. Both parents were understandably quite upset, and the mother knelt down beside her son to take his hand.  The athlete reported not being able to move any of his body parts or feel any sensation when his mother touched his hand. Mike signalled for a gentleman nearby to call 911. Mike continued talking to the athlete, monitoring his responses (breathing, sensation) until the ambulance arrived (within 10 minutes of the hit). 

After the initial shock of the situation, the athlete’s mother calmed down and also reassured the athlete.  From his position, Mike 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. By the time the ambulance arrived, the athlete could not only feel everything, but could move everything (feet, arms, - but with just little motions as instructed by the Athletic Therapist), except he could not close his hands.  

Once the EMT's arrived, they took over the situation, one taking over the stabilization of the spine, the other instructing us on what to do to help prepare the athlete for transport. Mike Elchuk, two other hockey players, and the mother, all assisted in boarding the athlete. The EMT was the charge person of the group and was responsible for stabilizing the cervical spine. Once the athlete was on the board and immobilized, he was lifted and carried to the transport cart, which was just off the ice surface. 

It took approximately 15 -20 minutes from the time of incident to loading of the athlete onto the ambulance. At the hospital, the athlete found out that he had compressed his C3 vertebra. He had surgery the following day to have it removed and had his C2 and C4 vertebra fused.  As serious of an injury as this was, it went as very smoothly thanks to the immediate response, proper care and direction of the attending Athletic Therapist Mike Elchuk.


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