La Loche teacher honoured for lifesaving actions

by Phil Ambroziak

What started out as a regular school day for La Loche Community School teacher Julie Braaksma is now regarded as a defining moment in her career, as well as in the life of one forever-grateful student.
Braaksma was the recipient of a special award Oct. 2 from Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield. Presented during a special assembly in the school gymnasium, the award was given in recognition of Braaksma’s actions one year ago that helped save the life of student Austin Lee Herman.

“It was just a typical day until a fight or something broke out that resulted in a student being stabbed,” Braaksma explained. “I was following my usual routine when I suddenly heard my name being called.

I’ve also been a paramedic for more than 20 years, so when I arrived on the scene, that training immediately kicked in. I turned teacher mode off and put my paramedic hat on.”

Herman, who was in Grade 9 at the time, had been stabbed in the chest. Braaksma said he was having a hard time breathing and had lost a lot of blood.

“I performed First Aid until the ambulance arrived,” she said. “Because I also work part-time as an EMS worker, when the crew arrived I continued to help. He (Herman) was eventually stabilized and taken to the hospital in Saskatoon.”

As much as the incident left students and staff shaken, Braaksma said she went about the rest of her day as usual.

“What I did was part of my regular routine as a paramedic,” she said. “Later, however, I realized I was at school, in my role as a teacher, at the time.”

As for the award, Braaksma said that came as more of a shock than her actions during the incident itself.

“My colleagues have said it’s because of me this kid survived,” she said. “I’m very humble. Yes, I was part of the reason, but you also have to remember the first staff person who was on the scene, the paramedics and the hospital staff. It (award) was such a surprise.”

Braaksma admits, however, she did suspect something was up when her mother, who resides in Ottawa, showed up unannounced the weekend before the assembly.

“I didn’t know she was coming,” she said. “You don’t just come to La Loche for a tour, but she was able to keep it a surprise. To have the lieutenant governor there to present the award just made it much more special.”

Herman declined to comment, but according to Braaksma, he’s back to 100 per cent and still attends La Loche Community School.

“He was even at the awards ceremony,” she said. “He came down from the stands and thanked me, as well.”

Schofield was officially scheduled to be at the school as part of a recent tour of seven schools in northern Saskatchewan to present awards to outstanding students. In La Loche, student Jeffery Klyne was the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence for his academic achievement, as well as his ongoing contributions to the community.

“My award was a surprise addition,” Braaksma said.

Braaksma has been teaching in La Loche for five years.

“The main thing I believe people could take away from this is to make sure they are up-to-date with any First Aid training they may have and to stay calm during an emergency,” she said. “If we keep our heads together, we can always make a difference.”

Also recognized during Schofield’s tour was St. Pascal Community School student Nicholas Bouvier. The lieutenant governor visited the Green Lake school Oct. 4, during which time Bouvier was also presented with an Award of Excellence.

“He was nominated near the end of the last school year by teacher Joy Bothma,” said St. Pascal secretary/librarian Annalisa Kolbeck. “He had a 96 per cent average and a 92 per cent attendance record.”
Kolbeck also said it was a great honour to have Schofield at the school.

“It was a new and exciting experience,” she said. “We are very proud to see one of our own receive such a prestigious honour.”

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