High school trainer saves Northwest Colorado man’s life

Josh Carney/Glenwood Post Independent
Ryan Erickson
Courtesy Photo

CARBONDALE — A Steamboat Springs man attending his son’s middle school basketball tournament at Roaring Fork High School Saturday in Carbondale is lucky Ryan Erickson was on duty as the tournament’s athletic trainer.

Erickson, Roaring Fork’s certified athletic trainer and track and field coach, used chest compressions, CPR and the school’s automated external defibrillator to resuscitate the man, who was having a heart attack Saturday afternoon inside the auxiliary gymnasium at the high school

Erickson, who was in his office between the auxiliary and main gymnasium inside the high school, was summoned by the tournament director to assist the man who had passed out in the stands at the far corner of the gymnasium.

“When I reached him, he was unconscious and was experiencing agonal breathing, which is gasping for breath,” said Erickson. “That type of breathing happens to people going through cardiac arrest.”

Upon reaching the man and seeing him struggling to breath, Erickson said he attempted to find a pulse but couldn’t find much of one, prompting him to immediately start CPR. While Erickson performed CPR on the man, a bystander called 911, while the tournament site manager, Bill Young, raced to get the defibrillator.

Following the first cycle of chest compressions and CPR, Erickson and a couple of attendants at the tournament moved the man from the bleachers to the floor, where Erickson prepped the man for the AED.

Thanks to consistent training and certifications, Erickson — who has never had to use a defibrillator or perform CPR outside of training — said he knew exactly what to do.

“You always kind of wonder if this is ever going to happen to you when you’re on the job and always wonder how you’re going to react in that situation,” said Erickson. “You just get into autopilot and your training takes over.”

Young, who raced to Erickson’s side with the AED, said it was remarkable to watch Erickson save the man’s life.

“It was great. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said an emotional Young. “He was familiar with the AED and had training on it. He went through the exact, perfect motions. He stepped right in and knew exactly what he was doing. It was just remarkable to watch.”

After the first set of shocks to the man’s chest, Erickson said the man started to breath normally again, which allowed Erickson to hold off on a second round of shocks. At that time, Carbondale police and an ambulance arrived at the school, taking over for the trainer.

Still in a protective, caring mode, Erickson noticed that the man’s son, who was playing in the basketball game at the time, was emotionally distraught. Erickson, a father himself, helped console the young boy, telling him that his father was OK.

Later in the day, fellow Steamboat parents confirmed that the man had a heart attack. He was conscious leaving the gymnasium with paramedics, on the way to the hospital.

“I was just doing my job,” Erickson said.

The family of the man said they were sure glad Erickson was there.

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