Coronavirus sends Licking Heights athletic trainers into new role

Kurt Snyder, Newark Advocate / Published 11:52 a.m. ET April 6, 2020

COLUMBUS - When Eric Bortmas’ more than two decades as an athletic trainer was put on hold, it did not take him long to put his skills to use.

Bortmas, who has been full-time at Licking Heights since 2006, and Tabby Stein, who began serving Heights this school year, have been volunteering at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center since the coronavirus began to reach and spread across central Ohio.

"We quickly were sent e-mails about volunteering and opportunities to help with the situation because we were available,” Bortmas said. “We were one of the first couple people to sign up because we were both able to get several slots for the first round. Now, it kind of snowballed to where we’re checking our emails every day to see what other opportunities are out there.”

Governor Mike DeWine initially closed schools for three weeks on March 12, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association quickly postponed the remaining winter sports state tournaments and the beginning of spring sports. Suddenly, athletic trainers were away from their facilities and with just electronic communication available for their athletes.

For Stein, whose first job at a school is at Licking Heights Central Middle School after Ohio State received the athletic training contract last year, it threw an unexpected curve ball early in her career.

"It was definitely kind of a shock, but I am always eager to learn and do new things,” Stein said. “I love the healthcare system, so being able to help people any way I can is a great thing for me. I know it’s a tough time, so I hope my smiling and positive attitude can help their day be a little better.”

Licking Heights athletic trainers Eric Bortmas, pictured, and Tabby Stein are assisting with coronavirus screenings at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

Licking Heights athletic trainers Eric Bortmas, pictured, and Tabby Stein are assisting with coronavirus screenings at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. (Photo: Ohio State University)

Bortmas and Stein spend most of their time at screening stations, checking patients’ health and directing them where to go when they are cleared to enter the facility.

Also volunteering as a part of their affiliation with Ohio State are Granville’s Brei Miller and Steve Rose. In addition, the National Athletic Trainers' Association urged their membership to volunteer in the same way through the Go4Ellis program.

Bortmas said their role has been key to act as a middle man between concerned patients and a medical staff that is under constant pressure.

"It's been a nice interaction. About 99% of the people that have come through have been understanding of what we are doing and appreciative of it," Bortmas said. "The workers in the hospital behind us are appreciative, too, because we are that stopgap between the public and their work space, making sure everyone is cleared to come into the hospital and not expose anyone else."

Stein, who graduated from the University of Akron in 2016, will add another line to her resume. She has used an unprecedented medical event to continue to learn and grow.

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This will be great experience for working with young athletes and parents, who might be going through a serious injury and extensive rehabilitation for the first time.

“It’s helped us learn to be more versatile and think on our toes because that’s how sports are going to happen,” Stein said. “It also helps with patient experience. You learn how to judge people’s personalities, so you know how to help them best.”

Bortmas has never far away from the school even during summer vacation, monitoring June workouts or returning in August to oversee fall practices.

Bortmas, who has a close relationship with many of Heights’ athletes and has developed a large student-aide program, said he is most concerned for the mental state of students, who continue to be cooped up at home and have limited ability to interact with friends.

"Twenty-two years in and just having your ties being broken all of a sudden, it is all new territory for me,” Bortmas said. “It is a little unsettling, and I really do miss the kids and the atmosphere of it all. I was looking forward to do what baseball and softball could do this spring and boys volleyball and track, too.”

With DeWine’s decision March 30 to extend the school closure at least through April, a return to school will have to wait. For now, Bortmas is doing what he has been called to do, and many of his colleagues in the field have followed suit.

“One of the things I said is, ‘Our profession is all about let’s get it done.’ It might not always be in our job description, but we are flexible and compatible enough in most positions,” he said. “We are just trying to step up and fill the gaps where we can.”

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Ostendorf Serves Blackhawks Athletes

By Gaylen Blosser – The Early Bird

April 1, 2020

UNION CITY – Chelsey Ostendorf, a Lancaster High School graduate serves as the Mississinawa Valley Athletic Trainer, one of five Darke County school associated with Wayne HealthSports under the direction of James Beyke.

“Chelsey brings a unique skill set to our staff having served as both a high school and collegiate Athletic Trainer in the past,” said Jim Beyke, Director of Wayne HealthSports Rehab Services. “Chelsey also is an EMT and Firefighter with the West Manchester fire department.”

“Mr. Beyke is really nice and cares about our student athletes,” said Ostendorf. “I really enjoy working for him and the staff at Wayne HealthSports.

Prior to coming to Darke County, Ostendorf served with Kettering Health Network.

“Chelsey’s unique skill set has positioned her to approach her job at Mississinawa Valley differently,” Beyke noted. “Chelsey understands how the rescue squads approach their jobs and cover athletic events.”

“She knows how to communicate effectively with the rescue personnel which can be a big advantage in a rural high school setting,” added Beyke. “Our hospital is 11 miles from the school, so having an experienced Athletic Trainer there is a big advantage for the athletes at Mississinawa Valley.”

The 2012 Wright State University graduate is pleased Darke County athletes have an opportunity to remain local when medical attention is needed, reducing travel time and expenses traveling to Dayton for evaluation and treatment.

“I didn’t know any of this was in Darke County until I moved this way,” noted Ostendorf. “The doctors out here that we work with are with Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Ohio, so it’s the same doctors you would see in Dayton and the bigger cities.”

“They have an office here so you are able to get the exact same care that you would get in a big city,” Ostendorf added. “It’s just in your back door.”

Today’s Athletic Trainers play an important role returning injured players back to the court or field in a safe yet timely fashion.

“We do everything from their emergency care to evaluating their injuries, treatments and rehab,” Ostendorf said. “Getting the student athlete from basically the time they have been injured on the floor to when they return to play, getting them to the doctor and helping them through the process of having surgery or just getting them taped up and back on the floor.”

It is obvious Ostendorf enjoys the career path she has chosen and encourages high school students to consider a health care career.

I love my job,” said Ostendorf. “It’s a lot of fun. Everything is different every day and it’s just like going and hanging out. It’s not necessarily like going to work every day.”

“We are glad Chelsey is a part of our team and look forward to watching her grow further in her position,” Beyke concluded.