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Education Station: Elyria High School athletic trainer honored for saving referee's life

it's a miracle Laura Breese was there in the gymnasium that night, since athletic trainers aren't even required at most Ohio high school sporting events.

ELYRIA, Ohio — Millions watched as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field weeks ago while suffering cardiac arrest. Since that frightening moment, the nation has shined a spotlight on the unsung heroes on the field — athletic trainers, medical staff, and health care professionals, and the vital role they play on the field.

Within that same week here in Northeast Ohio, Laura Breese — athletic trainer at Elyria High School — was working the boys varsity basketball game when she came face-to-face with a familiar, scary scene.

"Just as we were about to start the second half, one of the officials came out and notified the people at the main scores table that one of the other officials collapsed," Breese recalled.

That referee, George Jackson, had collapsed in the hallway outside the gum.

"I started running back there, and the coaches who were with me said, 'Should we get the AED?'" Breese told us. "I said, 'Yes!'" 

Within 60 seconds, Breese administered CPR.

"When I approached, I realized he was not breathing appropriately and had what we call agonal respiration."

He also didn't have a pulse, his heart having stopped beating. But Breese knew what to do: She used an AED to restart his heart.

Breese says she was able to act fast because of a nurse who was in the stands that night who served as an additional helping hand.

"When she saw the coaches running with the AED, her nurse 'Spidey-Senses' went off," Breese said, "and it was excellent to have another trained individual there."

Credit: 3News
Laura Breese

According to Breese, athletic trainers aren't a mandatory requirement for Ohio high school sports. There are a number of districts who don't have any licensed trainers or health care professionals on staff.

"The only requirement is to have someone — a physician or athletic trainer — at varsity football games, and an ambulance is required as well," she explained, "but that's the only [Ohio] High School Athletic Association requirement." 

Basically, it's a miracle Breese was there in the gymnasium that night. She saved the referee's life, and if it wasn't for her and other health care professionals present at the game, we could be telling a very different story.

"We would love to see athletic trainers required at every high school," she said. "We would love to see that as part of the [Ohio Athletic Trainers' Association], our state organization."

At Wednesday night's Elyria School Board meeting, Breese was honored for her efforts to help Jackson, with the pair meeting each other for the first time since the incident.

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