When Colan Droneburg, a 17-year old Catoctin High School football player, collapsed as he came off the field on March 5, Kayla O’Connell was the first person to tend to him.
O’Connell, Catoctin’s athletic trainer, contracted through Pivot Physical Therapy, quickly requested anyone nearby to call 911, and Madison Brown, Middletown High School’s athletic trainer, ran across the field to help her.
“Working together and alongside the other volunteers, they just tried to keep the young man breathing and alive, and it was worrisome,” Catoctin Athletic Director Keith Bruck said. “It was an experience that none of us will ever forget, I’m sure.”
Bruck and Middletown Athletic Director Mike DiSimone honored O’Connell and Brown on the Catoctin field Thursday night in between the boys and girls soccer games. The athletic directors had rearranged the teams’ schedules so both the Middletown boys and girls were playing at Catoctin.
“With it being national athletic training month, we just felt it was the perfect opportunity to honor them,” Bruck said.
Athletic trainers are the first point of medical contact for student athletes and are responsible for treating players who are injured both during and after games. They help with recuperating players so they can get back on the field, as well as determining whether players need additional care such as physical therapy. Many athletic trainers also hold sessions with student athletes to share exercises they can use to prevent injury in the future.
“They’re invaluable, what they do for the student athletes at their individual schools,” said Bruck.
Brown says she often feels like a mom, taking care of students across all teams who need help. This is her second year at Middletown, and she feels connected to her students, often talking to them about their lives and plans for college. This is Brown’s first year at Catoctin, and she said the March 5 event was the first serious medical emergency she’s experienced.
When Droneburg first came off the field, it wasn’t clear how serious his injury was. But when he stopped responding to O’Connell, she immediately knew the situation was dangerous.
“So it was an adrenaline rush,” O’Connell said. “It was like, ‘OK, Kayla, this is what you were taught to do. This is how you know to respond. Do it. Ask for help ... Tell people what you need, and make sure this kid lives.”
Brown agreed. She said she was focused on making sure Droneburg could breathe and ensuring everybody had what they needed to do so.
“In that moment you just have to go on what you know, and luckily everything went as well as it could have for what happened,” Brown said.
Droneburg was flown via helicopter to University of Maryland Shock Trauma. Football coach Mike Rich said Droneburg is stable but still recovering.