Sonoma State University has issued its first Valor Award to the coaching staff of the Sonoma State women’s soccer team for saving the life of a student athlete.
The school honored head coach Emiria Salzmann-Dunn and assistant coaches Margi Osmundson and Mark Dunn for their heroic actions on Nov. 28.
“This could have been a devastating event,” said Joyce Lopes, vice president of administration and finance. “I could not have been prouder of how they showed such courage and compassion.”
On Sept. 1, the team was at Humboldt State University for a tournament and was participating in a light practice when senior defender Courtney Shoda received a ball off of her chest and kicked it into the goal. After jogging back to her place in line, she stumbled and collapsed.
“I heard a player yell my name and point behind me and I turned and looked and that is when I saw Courtney laying motionless on the field,” Salzmann-Dunn said. “I ran to her side and I noticed she was struggling to breath.”
That is when someone yelled out for assistant coach Mark Dunn to come over. Dunn, who is an assistant coach in his spare time, is also a 26-year veteran firefighter and holds the rank of captain with the Rincon Valley Fire Protection District.
“Just by the sound of the scream, I knew something was seriously wrong,” Dunn said.
After checking for a pulse and feeling none, Dunn initiated CPR, assisted by Salzmann-Dunn.
Osmundson called 911 from her cell phone, and ran to the emergency campus telephone to summon help.
“Mark brought a level of precision and calmness that allowed me to use my CPR training,” Salzmann-Dunn said. “I never thought I would have to perform CPR on one of my own players.”
Within a couple of minutes, Shoda had regained a pulse and paramedics arrived and transported her to the hospital.
“I do not remember much from that day other than I was doing a little warm-up,” said Shoda, a senior kinesiology major, “Everything I know I heard from my teammates.”
Shoda spent three days in the hospital and had to wear a vest with a defibrillator for a month and then a heart monitor for another month.
“The doctors believe I suffered from Commotio Cordis,” said Shoda. “But they won’t say that for sure because they have not found a case linked to a women soccer player before.”
Commotio Cordis is extremely rare and is caused by an abrupt blow to the heart during the brief period of time after the heart contracts, when the organ is recharging itself. During this time (a span of a few milliseconds) one part of the heart has recharged and is ready to fire, while the rest of the organ is not yet ready.
Even though Shoda was not medically cleared, she was allowed to attend trainings and games.
“With what Courtney went through and still wanting to be there for her teammates is the spirit of what team sports is about,” said Salzmann-Dunn, “Connecting and sacrificing for other people no matter what.”
Shoda has made a full recovery and has been cleared by her doctors and the Sonoma State Athletic Department to participate in soccer again. She participated in the team’s last practice on Friday, Dec. 1.
“This experience has encouraged me to slow down and embrace life,” said Shoda.