Head Trainer Laura Crowell: A Lifesaver

Published Friday, January 26, 2018
Head Trainer Laura Crowell
Head Trainer Laura Crowell

The trainers at Southwest Minnesota State University attend every practice and every competition, taking care of a myriad of injuries, from minor strains and sprains to more serious injuries.

It’s rare, however, when they are called upon to save a life.

Such was the case on Dec. 31 when SMSU head trainer Laura Crowell helped bring men’s basketball official Jeff Schroder back to life.

The 46-year-old veteran official was running down the court with 11:58 to go in the game against Wayne State. He suddenly took two halting steps, and went down, getting tangled with Mustang player Ryan Bruggeman as he went down. When Schroder didn’t move, Crowell and SMSU head coach Brad Bigler were the first to reach him, and they knew immediately he was in trouble.

Crowell has been at SMSU 22 years, and has been the head trainer since 1997. She came to Marshall with her husband, Scott, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, from Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.  They met while both attended Iowa State University.

“Scott took the position at SMSU. I was teaching at the time, and was pregnant with Danielle (the youngest of their four daughters).” After they arrived in Marshall, “I had four under the age of 10 so had no interest at that time in taking a position.”

Her years of experience were beneficial when she assessed the dire situation on Dec. 31. “When I got to him, he was unresponsive,” she said. She was then joined by a friend, Wayne State trainer Muffin Morris, along with Lauren Palsgrove, SMSU trainer, and Jess Swedzinski from Big Stone Therapy.

Coincidentally, Bigler’s brother-in-law, Jeremy Walker, a physician from Nashville, Tenn., and his godmother, Lois Sinram, a nurse from Waterloo, Iowa, were there watching the game, and soon joined the efforts.

“I did a ‘Look, listen and feel,’” said Crowell. She asked Swedzinski and Morris if he had a pulse or respiration, and then they replied in the negative, that’s when Walker began to actively assist. “He did compressions, while I did breaths,” she explained.

An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) was nearby. This machine shocks the stricken person’s heart.  “It makes the heart contract hard, it makes the muscle (heart) contract as one.”

Operating the AED is not difficult. A lead is put on the chest, and one on the person’s side. The AED is an intuitive machine and lets those using it know if a shock is advised. “When it said a shock was advised, we stepped back and administered the shock,” said Crowell.

The work of everyone that evening saved Schroder’s life.

The training staff consists of three full-time trainers and five graduate assistants. Athletics has six AED devices, and another nine are available in buildings across campus.

“Laura and her trainers do a great job and are always prepared,” said Bigler. “There were a lot of little things that came into play that night. It wasn’t his time to go.”

Crowell said she has witnessed a similar situation during competition, “but I’ve never been responsible for managing it,” she said. “I was so glad to have so many people there, so happy to see faces I work with.”

Crowell first saw the compact AED devices when she attended one of her daughter Chelsea’s high school hockey games. At the time SMSU had one AED, a big and bulky device the size of a suitcase. Impressed by the smaller AED devices she saw, Crowell checked their price and purchased several right away. They are about $1,000 apiece.

Schroder was transported to a hospital in Sioux Falls where he underwent quadruple bypass surgery after being brought back to life after his heart attack. Thanks to Crowell and others who knew what to do immediately, Schroder will continue his officiating career once he’s fully recovered.

The Crowells have four daughters — Lindsey, Chelsea, Katelyn and Danielle — and five grandchildren.