METHUEN — It happened in a flash, limbs tangling during a common collision between hockey players from Methuen and Gloucester high schools.
Almost nobody either on or off the ice at the Methuen rink even knew anything was wrong, and the game briefly continued, with Gloucester on its way to a 6-4 victory.
But when Brady Barron, 16, a Methuen junior forward, fell to the ice, in that instant, his glove had slipped off, leaving his hand and wrist exposed. And his wrist had been cut accidentally by a skate from a Gloucester player as they both hit the deck.
The blade severed an artery, 12 tendons and several nerves in his left wrist. The refs did not stop the play; and with that type of injury, seconds count.
Janielle Martin, 30, an athletic trainer and critical care nurse who was sitting on the Methuen bench, realized instinctively that a serious injury had happened and flew out of the box before the play was even blown dead. The look on Barron’s face, his shout over the general sports cacophony, a drop of blood — Martin processed those clues with the eye of an ER nurse.
”He was skating towards the box, which was normal, but I saw two drops of blood, and I knew it wasn’t a nosebleed,” Martin said. “Something kicked in and I jumped on the ice.”
Only a few feet away, Martin got to Barron, elevated his arm, pressed his wrist, and tried to keep him calm. She sent for towels to compress the cut and slow the bleeding. Al Delano, a current athletic trainer at Methuen High and an anatomy teacher, ran up to the rink from a track meet happening concurrently.
A police officer, Patrolman Walter Fleming, arrived within another minute, Martin and Delano said, and Methuen Fire and EMTs followed shortly after. An EMT in the stands, a Gloucester parent, got paper towels.
”A lot of people reacted very quickly, that made this situation the best case scenario,” said associate principal Rick Borden, who cleared the path for EMTs to get onto the ice.
EMTs called ahead to Lawrence General so the trauma unit would be ready. Barron’s wrist was x-rayed, and a surgical team was prepped at Children’s Hospital in Boston. He was there by ambulance in 20 minutes.
“The response to what happened was very quick, and that’s pretty much what saved my life,” Barron said. “They were prepared, they came out and they were heroes.”
Doctors at Children’s Hospital told Barron and his father, Scott Barron, that the severed artery would have given him two minutes to live if nothing had been done.
But Martin’s quick response and the pressure she and others applied to Brady Barron’s wrist helped stop the bleeding. Doctors at Children’s found the cut artery clotted.
The cause of the injury actually made it easier to repair. The Barrons said doctors at Children’s were able to easily repair the tendons and nerves because the cut was clean and at a 90-degree angle. An iced, wet stainless steel blade reduced the risk of infection. He was home in days, with a cast keeping his wrist bent, and back in school yesterday.
Barron, a busy teenager with a girlfriend who has played soccer, hockey, lacrosse and baseball, and is the drummer in the local band Silent Stories with a new single, has a little more than two weeks of healing before starting a painful and difficult rehabilitation. It will be six to nine months before much of the lost feeling in his hand returns. But his doctors are hopeful he will not need another surgery.
Scott Barron is optimistic — “You’ll play next year. Positives,” he said Monday — but both acknowledged they would have to make decisions about whether and what activities to restart as Brady’s recovery progresses.
The Barrons said a Methuen community they are just getting to know came out for them. A recent transfer into Methuen, Brady Barron has received visits from the hockey team. Principal James Giuca called the family. Students Brady did not know asked him how he was doing. On Twitter Jan. 14 – the night of the game — #prayforbrady trended that evening as dozens of students said they were thinking of him.
Martin arguably was seated where she was because of the influence of a trainer from the High School of Science and Technology in Springfield, where she went to school and played on a number of athletic teams.
“I played several things when I was younger, and the athletic trainer at my high school, I adored him,” Martin said. “I thought it was great and I loved the job. In college I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that or physical therapy. Someone told me to shadow someone in one of the fields, so I shadowed him and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Martin worked as a trainer for several years at Methuen High School, but went back to school for a nursing degree. She now works as a critical care nurse at Lowell General Hospital, but helps as athletic trainer in Methuen when needed.
“I can’t give it up. It’s one of my passions,” she said. “I love being on the sideline, and the energy the kids have is awesome.”
Douglas Moser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow him on Twitter @EagleEyeMoser.