REMSEN, Iowa | Jadyn Steffen fell from her perch above her fellow cheerleaders and smacked the back of her head on the gym floor at MMCRU High School in Marcus, Iowa, on Monday night.
The gym immediately grew quiet following a "bang" you couldn't help but hear.
In seconds, Steffen was surrounded by two nurses, two EMTs, a pair of school administrators, and her mother.
"We can't say enough about the people who came to Jadyn's aid," her mother, Kristin Steffen, told me on Wednesday. "Without them, yikes!"
Yikes is right. At a time when Siouxland residents worry about gaps in rural paramedic care (see recap Friday of the Journal's No. 9 story in 2017), it's reassuring to know there are volunteers dotting the landscape, incredible givers who stand ready at a moment's notice.
Tom Leavitt, for example, visited with me briefly on Monday evening at the gym. The Marcus Lumber pro was at the game to watch a niece play. Little did he know he'd be pressed into service between the first and second quarters of the boys' basketball game, joined immediately by Matt Dreckman, another EMS volunteer who, like Leavitt, serves with the Marcus Volunteer Fire Department.
"We are pretty fortunate where we're at," Leavitt said. "We have 26 EMTs within the Marcus Fire Department & Ambulance Service."
We cannot do enough for these volunteers. Think of the providers like Leavitt and Dreckman in your community and count your blessings. Better yet, tell them, show them your gratitude.
Additionally, two nurses who happened to attend the game, Tracee Henke and Traci Miller, held Jadyn Steffen's head still and checked her pupils for dilation. They kept the MMCRU junior calm in that 7-minute stretch while waiting for the ambulance.
How traumatic it had to be for a cheerleader to have been knocked out, albeit briefly, on her home gym floor during a break in the game.
Jan Brandhorst, MMCRU superintendent, and Jason Toenges, high school principal, offered words of comfort to the cheerleader as Lonnie Boekhout, MMCRU athletic director, kept the doorway entrance clear for the ambulance crew.
"They all had a quick response," Kristin Steffen said.
"I was impressed with the ambulance crew," added Jadyn's father, Jared Steffen, who was summoned at their home in Remsen and arrived as the ambulance pulled up to the school.
Kristin Steffen joined her daughter in the ambulance as it made its way to the Orange City Area Health System. "Jadyn kept responding by saying she knew who she was and what had happened," her mother remembered. "She also complained of the pressure on her head."
Kristin Steffen tried to think good thoughts, but couldn't dispel the notion of a possible brain injury. "When Jadyn screamed about the pressure in her head, it did me in," Kristin said.
Doctors examined the patient in the emergency room in Orange City on Monday night and dismissed her between 11 p.m. and midnight. Jadyn Steffen slept much of the day on Tuesday, confining herself to the couch most of the time. She returned to school on Wednesday to take one exam, a semester final in Spanish.
Following another visit to the Orange City hospital on Thursday for an ultrasound and examination, Jadyn planned to study for six final exams that remained. She's hoping her light headaches subside, allowing her to gain medical clearance for participation with a cheerleading unit that will perform at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida, on Jan. 1. Her mother is one of the chaperones traveling with a group that includes 10 MMCRU cheerleaders.
"I have a lot of reading to do before those six finals," said Jadyn, who has served as class president six straight years.
She's also got a few Christmas presents to buy to wrap up her holiday season, a holiday she'll enjoy with a little added appreciation this year.
Her parents, meantime, are looking at their community, and the people in it, with an amplified sense of thanksgiving this Christmas.
"We are very appreciative of what those responders do every day," Kristin Steffen said.
As she said before: "Without them, yikes!"