Athletic Training Student Saves a Life

Photo: Mike Peters

Valentina Glavan and Joe Savoia

March was Athletic Training Month. The theme of the year is "We’ve Got Your Back." On Thursday, March 20, 2014, senior Athletic Training Education Program student Valentina Glavan took the National Athletic Trainers’ Association slogan literally.

While eating lunch, Montclair State University Assistant Athletic Trainer Joe Savoia started to choke on his sandwich. At first everyone thought he was joking around or trying to create an emergency situation for the students to respond to. Unfortunately, the episode was all too real.

Glavan was nearby and immediately stepped in. She gave Savoia five back blows with no results. He was still choking and getting very anxious. With no hesitation she then applied abdominal thrusts. On the fourth attempt a clump of food shot out of his mouth.

According to Glavan, “the main thing this experience has taught me is that you really never know what's going to happen at any time. Sometimes the things we learn in class, the things we really need to know can get a little tedious and repetitious. We spent a whole semester on Emergency Care and sometimes you think to yourself that ‘it can't happen to me’ but it can it did."

She continues: “The whole experience was strange because a week earlier I downloaded an app on my phone by the American Red Cross called 'First Aid.' I wanted to make sure that I remembered all of my first aid skills. I took the tests and passed them all. I read through everything just because it's just good to have a refreshed memory and make sure that you do know what you're doing.

"The morning of the incident, we had watched the video about Steve Papa (LAT,ATC), who was my first preceptor for Clinic Education 1, saving a student’s life by doing CPR and using the AED. The whole time I was thinking ‘I hope emergencies like this never happen and would I be ready?’

“Three hours later, I was in the right place at the right time and I did the right thing. I knew that I had the ability to do what I did but I was never thrown into that kind of situation before. I knew what the procedure for a conscious choking victim is and I felt as though I didn't stop to think. I heard him gasp as the food settled back in his throat. It's a sound I'll never forget. And then at that moment, I went into doing what I needed to do; at that point it was instinctive.

"After everything was done, then I sat and thought about what had just happened. I sat on a stool for about 10 minutes and I thought about what if I wasn't there, how it could've been worse. And then I thought how I was actually really ready, and felt really good about what I did and that everything ended up being okay. We may not practice it every day, and I would hope that things like this don't happen often, but this experience also gave me a lot more confidence in what I know. It really drove the point home for me; athletic trainers have to be prepared to perform at any time."