‘How do you thank someone for saving your life?’ Army hockey player recounts injury, lifesaving response

Army hockey player Eric Huss never spent much time with the team’s athletic trainer, but after a game against Sacred Heart University, Huss and trainer Rachel Leahy are now “bonded for life.”

Marissa Alter

Jan 18, 2023, 1:16 AM

Updated 514 days ago


Army hockey player Eric Huss never spent much time with the team’s athletic trainer, but after a game against Sacred Heart University, Huss and trainer Rachel Leahy are now “bonded for life.” It’s not hard to see why. Leahy is credited with saving Huss’s life after he suffered a severe neck injury during a game at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport on Jan. 5.
In the second period, a teammate's skate accidentally sliced Huss in the neck..
“Honestly, it felt like I had been hit in the face like with a punch. I didn't even register that I got cut or anything,” Huss said.
Huss's helmet was knocked off, so the 5-foot, 10-inch, 175-pound forward headed to the bench, which is when he started to realize something was wrong.
“I'm looking down, and I just see all this blood kind of just trailing,” Huss recalled. “I was bleeding all over the ice and at this point, I was like, ‘Well it's not coming from my mouth. I don't know what's going on.’”
But Leahy did. She immediately jumped over the boards onto the ice.
“I just ran over. I got two hands on his wound, on his face, and I was like, ‘Okay we're going this way,’ and we just immediately got off the ice towards EMS,” Leahy explained. “I think initially I was shocked because this is my second year as a full-time ice hockey athletic trainer, and I recognized how severe the injury was, but then after that it was just kind of go time.”
“Rachel was with me the whole time. She didn't take her hands off my face. Her hands were like in the cut,” Huss said.
That included in the ambulance where Leahy had to be hoisted up on top of Huss so she could continue to apply pressure. A police escort blocked side streets to get the ambulance as quickly as possible to St. Vincent’s Medical Center where staff in the emergency room took over for Leahy.
“Eric came through as a level one trauma activation. Eric was injured badly, was very pale, but he was also very calm and alert, which was a good sign,” said Dr. Matthew Carlson, the trauma surgeon that operated on Huss at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
Carlson said Huss's facial artery was severed, but his team was able to repair it. Carlson credited Leahy's pivotal response for the positive outcome.
“[She] Single-handedly got him to the hospital in as good of shape as he was, saved his life I think in no uncertain terms,” Carlson stated.
Leahy was honored at Army's home game against Providence where she got a standing ovation from the crowd and stick taps from both teams. The Atlantic Hockey Association also named her player of the week, saying there was no bigger play made in college hockey.
“It's been a cool experience for the two of us,” Leahy said, adding that her training prepared her to respond. She graduated from Quinnipiac University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and sports medicine.
“How do you thank someone for saving your life? It's pretty hard, but I'm going to get there, going to figure out a way to. I'm just feeling incredibly blessed honestly,” Huff explained.
Huss said his recovery is going very well, and he hopes to be back playing with his team in a few weeks.
The accident occurred on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the death of Teddy Balkind, a St. Luke’s hockey player who took a skate to the neck in a game at Brunswick in Greenwich.
The incident led to discussions around Connecticut about neck guards. They’re mandated in the CIAC but not the prep-school league where St. Luke’s plays, youth hockey or the NCAA.
Huss was not wearing one at the time but said he will be when he returns to the ice with Army.

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