LUBBOCK, Texas – Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin’s close call has made many take a second look at player safety in all sports, at all levels. Monterey High School’s Zaidyn Ward also collapsed on the football field back in August. In both instances, it was athletic trainers who rose to the occasion quickly to save their lives.

“The coaches called me over immediately, and, obviously, a lot of thoughts went through my head,” said Lacey Mae Steele, an athletic trainer for Lubbock Independent School District (LISD).

Ward had just collapsed on the football field in their post-game huddle. The 14-year-old’s heart stopped, and Steele’s job was to bring him back.

“Luckily, I just followed my instincts,” Steele said. “I had the AED right next to me, and we were able to safely get CPR going, and everything just worked out. Once Zaidyn came around and started breathing, it was just one of the biggest reliefs of my life.”

That was on Aug. 31, 2022. Ward has had open-heart surgery since then and hopes to be back out on the field one day.

“I’m very thankful that she saved my life,” Ward said.

Last week’s incident with Hamlin highlighted the importance of athletic trainers at all levels.

“As athletic trainers, we are healthcare professionals,” said Shelly Macias, director of sports medicine at LISD. “We are first responders. We wear many hats.”

Macias has been an athletic trainer for three decades. In her 27 years with LISD, an AED has been used four times. One of those times was with Ward.

Steele has been certified in CPR since she was Ward’s age. Thankfully, she was ready and able to come to the rescue, just like the trainers in Cincinnati.

“That is something that we prepare for every day,” Macias said. “We practice that and we have our emergency action plans in place. Hopefully, it does not happen, but when it does happen, we’re ready.”

Macias said LISD has had three life-threatening situations in the past year. Two were students and one was a grandparent. Fortunately, they’re still here with us today all because an athletic trainer was nearby.

“It has shown over and over that life or death, we’re there in whatever situation and we’re willing,” Macias said. “Everybody that I work with, we’re not even hesitant. Whether a new person or an older person, we just jump on it. It’s just instinct. That’s just what we do is help people out.”