The football season is over for some. The lockers are cleaned out, the cleats are neatly tucked away and the glare of “Friday Night Lights” is a distant memory. But to Heather Bratcher, director of emergency services at HCA’s TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center, her work on the gridiron has just begun.
The registered nurse and 17-year veteran of HCA spearheaded the collection and donation of 12 first aid emergency responder bags to middle schools in Rutherford County, Tennessee, after she found herself providing life-saving care without basic first aid tools at a Siegel Middle School football game last September.
The near tragic event occurred during the game and left Caleb Victory, an eighth-grade football player, with a traumatic brain injury and on a long road to recovery.
In unfamiliar territory, Bratcher, who admits to not being a football fan, attended the game to watch her daughter play in the band.
“I wasn’t paying much attention to the game, but I noticed this kid (Caleb) kind of stumble off the field,” Bratcher said. “He took his helmet off, sat on the bench and put his arm around the Gatorade cooler.”
“His mom, who was sitting behind me, was yelling, ‘Are you OK?’, and my radar was going off because he was not responding,” she said.
Seconds later, the player, Victory, had slumped off the bench to the ground, and Bratcher quickly made her way to the field. She found him unresponsive with enlarged pupils and a snoring respiration – all signs of a serious condition.
Bratcher said usually in a situation like this, medical professionals come out of nowhere. But that night, it was just her. She called her husband, a paramedic and instructor with Volunteer State Community College’s paramedic education program, to help. He was at the adjoining high school.
“My husband comes running to help, and meanwhile, they had just given me this first aid bag,” Bratcher recalled. “But the only thing in the bag was eye wash or contact solution.”
Unfazed, Bratcher and her husband went to work to stabilize Victory until emergency medical services arrived with first aid equipment. The stars then began to align, as a medical flight team was in the area and was able to transport Victory to a local hospital without any delay.
The work, however, was just beginning for Bratcher. The very next day, she took the idea of providing Siegel Middle School with first responder bags to TriStar StoneCrest Chief Executive Officer Lou Caputo.
“After hearing Heather’s story, we realized the opportunity as a healthcare organization in this community, to help meet the needs of our residents,” Caputo said. “We wanted to ensure that not only Siegel, but all middle schools in Rutherford County had access to first responder medical supplies.”
With the support of hospital leadership, the Victory-Bratcher First Aid Emergency Responder bags, named in honor of Caleb and Heather, was born. The bags are equipped with ACE wraps, Band-Aids, gloves, airway and suction devices, to name a few items, and will be replaced as needed by TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center.
Siegel Middle School was one of 12 recipients. And, Victory, who returned to school just last week, was on-hand for the presentation.
“We’ve stayed in contact with Caleb and his family,” Bratcher said. “He still has a battle, but I’m amazed that he’s doing as well as he is.”
In just her third week in her new role as director of emergency services at TriStar StoneCrest, Bratcher has created something positive out of this experience – new friendships, a solid partnership and first responder tools for schools and a community in need.
As they said on the popular NBC television series Friday Night Lights: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”
(L-R) Lou Caputo, CEO TriStar StoneCrest, Heather Bratcher, registered nurse and TriStar StoneCrest director of emergency services, Caleb Victory, Charlotte O’ Neal, registered nurse and TriStar StoneCrest director of trauma and Art Bratcher, Rutherford County EMS