BIDDEFORD, Maine — One moment, University of New England hockey players were skating around in formation, slapping the puck back and forth and seeking an open shot on goal. The next, the arena was silent and everyone’s attention was fixed on Gene, lying motionless at center ice.

“Gene, can you hear me?” barked the team’s head athletic trainer, Kristen Bailey, who hopped the boards and shuffled across the ice to his side.

Medical responders from the Biddeford Fire and Rescue Department were on the scene within five minutes, but when Gene was shifted for placement on a spine board, his breathing stopped.

The harrying incident would ultimately leave UNE officials and community partners in the athletic training and medical fields with one lingering question: What’s a good way to injure Gene next time?

Friday’s on-ice simulation at the school’s new Harold Alfond Forum in Biddeford was meant to show off UNE’s state-of-the-art $90,000 Laerdel 3G SimMan — which can cry, bleed, sweat, talk and respond accurately to medications — and drum up ideas for how to use “Gene” in future simulations.

Watching from the arena stands as the ‘ordeal’ played out were not only students, but also a crowd of local physicians, emergency medical technicians and certified athletic trainers. Following the demonstration, they convened in a conference room to discuss how the trainers and first responders handled the incident, and also what sorts of future “situations” Gene could be placed in to train aspiring trauma workers.

Gene, controlled remotely by a simulation director, was showing symptoms of a cervical spine injury, but he’s multitalented when it comes to exhibiting severe injuries.

“The whole goal of today is to identify opportunities to do exercises like this in the future,” said associate clinical professor Christopher Rizzo.

The hockey-player-sized dummy is one of a number of simulation dolls UNE has at its disposal, said Rizzo, but Gene is by far the most advanced and detailed.

As Bailey’s team of student trainers began to work with him, Gene could be heard softly groaning in pain, a critical sign of “life” that alarmed responders when it went away during their placement of his body on a board.

For the record, they did get him breathing again before they transported him to the back of a waiting ambulance.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.