July 2012 Indianapolis news video coverage of Syren Jess and former Tornados coach Jerry Selters
We all know how much pro dancers add to sidelines entertainment, but perhaps no dancer has ever been as essential as Jess was during an Indianapolis Tornados football game last year. Last season’s Tornados coach Jerry Selters suffered a heart attack and collapsed during a game in July 2012’s high heat, and physicians estimate he was clinically dead for four minutes. But Jess, on the sidelines on the Syrens Dance Team, is also a trained Emergency Medical Technician and firefighter, and administered CPR as the crowd fell silent. Soon joined by the team doctor and two medically trained fans, Jess and the others brought coach Selters back from the brink, and onto an ambulance to a local ER. Coach Selters survived, and he and the Gridiron Developmental Football League thanked Jess for her live saving measures.
Afterwards, Jess said she merely did what she was trained to do, and Jess added, “I do not consider myself a hero. I was in the right place at the right time. I’m just very grateful that I was there, and I’m humbled by everybody’s reaction.”
A season later, asked about her thoughts of that game and her actions, Jess responds, “Reflecting on a year ago at that game, I felt like the world stopped. It was just me with the knowledge and experience, I was calm and focused on my patient. The memory that sticks out the most was me yelling at my cheerleaders to bring me ice packs so I could actively cool my patient, as the heat index was 116 that day, and my patient was in cardiac arrest. With my training, I was proud of myself that I knew what to do. I’ve never had, what we call, a ‘witnessed cardiac arrest’ before and I am elated at the results! Like I said it seemed like the world stopped and time stood still. I couldn’t hear anyone yelling or screaming because I was focused on what I was doing. Players, team management, and my fellow Syrens thanked me and hugged me after the ambulance left.”
Now that was one “breath-giving” sidelines performance! In addition, Jess shared with UltimateCheerleaders her experiences as a competitive athlete throughout her childhood, how she became an EMT and fire-fighter, and some advice for cheerleaders as they perform during sweltering summer games.
Jess during a June Indianapolis Tornados game
Jess is a lifelong central Indiana resident. “I was born in Indianapolis and grew up on a farm in Noblesville, where I have lived most of my life,” Jess explains. “Some of my favorite memories growing up was living on the farm, riding go-carts, driving tractors, and taking family road trips for vacations. Most memorable is the music my dad would play during these road trips. His taste in music impacted me at a young age, so we share the same love of good music.”
Much of Jess’s childhood was occupied with the world of competitive rhythmic gymnastics, having opportunities to perform at Indianapolis Colts games, the Olympic Torch Lighting ceremony, and at 13, becoming one of the Indiana State Champions for Rhythmic Gymnastics. “I started out in jazz and tap as a child then moved into artistic gymnastics at the age of 6,” Jess recalls. “A few years later at the gym, I saw a lady with a ribbon and I was intrigued. That’s when I switched to rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 10.”
Asked what people should look for to indicate a potential talent for rhythmic gymnastics, Jess answered, “As far as certain talents to look for in a rhythmic gymnast, it’s basically coordination. I feel also that a child should have to want to do the sport as it is very difficult, demanding, and time consuming.”
Jess reflected on the years of effort and competition in rhythmic gymnastics, the benefits to her future personality. “My years of competition were the most fun!” Jess recalls. “I loved competing and traveling with my mom from state to state. I learned discipline and patience during my years as a rhythmic gymnast. My coach also inspired me with a strict schedule and shaped me into the person/teacher I am today. As a competitive gymnast, I was in the gym three to four times a week, three hours at a time. I did not mind this AT ALL! I loved rhythmics and enjoyed learning and improving myself as a gymnast. I never wanted to give up that sport. My goal was to be a Level 10 and make it to the Olympics, however a bilateral hamstring injury that I never recovered from ended my career as a Level 8.”
Jess during halftime performance
Cheerleading was another part of Jess’s time in school, as a cheerleader in junior high and high school, as well as being a high school dance team member. After high school, Jess continued taking dance classes and performing, including for semi-pro football’s former Indy team, the Circle City Soldiers. Jess is in her second season with the Syrens Dance Team that cheers on the GDFL’s Indianapolis Tornados semi-pro football team. Now the Syrens’ Assistant Dance Director, how did Jess become part of the squad and had she wanted to be part of pro dance before? “I had the opportunity to dance with some alumni of Colts Cheerleaders and Pacemates at a pre-game performance at a Pacer game in 2012,” Jess explains. “One of the ladies was also part of the Syrens and suggested I try out. I had already been a part of a semi-professional cheer team back in 2002, and, yes, I’ve always wanted to be a professional cheerleader for the Colts or Pacemates.”
But it was Jess’s career decision that gave her essential skills to be able to jump to the rescue on the sidelines last season. “My interest in becoming a Firefighter/EMT happened by chance,” Jess remembers. “I already knew at a young age that I wanted to be in the medical field and help people. I started out in college in nursing, then worked in an ER and became even more fascinated with the human body and how it worked. I took an EMT course, ended up riding out on an ambulance for the first time, and loved every minute of it. That’s when I knew what my calling was.” So did Jess watch COPS or Rescue 911 at an early age? “Yes, I did watch Rescue 911 with my mother when it was on,” Jess replies.
So let’s take advantage of Jess expertise as both a pro dancer and trained emergency worker, and ask her advice for cheerleaders hitting the field during the torrid summer heat. What would Jess recommend for cheerleaders to prepare for hot games, and after what symptoms should a cheerleader realize that she should take a break and rest? “During heat related months, everyone needs to be aware of how much fluid they are taking in, and I’m talking about fluid that hydrates you: water, Gatorade, Powerade, et cetera. As a cheerleader being outside in the heat, you must bring plenty of hydrating drinks and food. I would also suggest a wet washcloth to keep in a cooler and ice packs in case of an emergency, like the emergency last year. Be aware of how much you are perspiring and once you stop perspiring, that should indicate to you to stop what you’re doing and go inside to cool down. Also, if you become nauseated, feeling faint, dizzy, or start vomiting.”
Continue reading Syren Jess reflects on dance, gymnastics, and saving the life of the Indianapolis Tornados coach during a 2012 game