Hazen teacher uses school defibrillator to save a life
August 13, 2009
By Laura Geggel
Some quick thinking and a defibrillator saved the life of Hazen High School’s soon-to-be sophomore Henry Flores.
On the afternoon of June 17, physical education teacher James Landsverk asked his students to run one mile in laps around the track. During his second lap, Flores collapsed and did not respond when nearby classmates called out his name.
Landsverk rushed to his student and immediately noted Flores’ eyes had rolled back into his head. Flores was gasping but unable to breathe.
Landsverk took control of the situation. He began administering CPR and ordered three students to help, directing one to call 911, another to retrieve one of the school’s 38 automated external defibrillators located near the pool and the last to find the school nurse.
Using the defibrillator, Landsverk shocked Flores’ heart back into a regular rhythm before resuming CPR. The teacher had received defibrillator training in September 2008 from the Renton Fire Department and knew how to follow its instructions. Using audio and visual prompts, the defibrillator told Landsverk how to attach the adhesive electrode pads to Flores’ chest so the machine could determine whether a heart rhythm was present. The charge from the defibrillator likely restarted Flores’ heart.
Meanwhile, the student running to get school nurse Celeste Dillard found her in her office. Dillard didn’t know why Flores had collapsed, so she grabbed an EpiPen, radio and medical basket.
“I ran down the hallway, past the office on purpose,” Dillard said. “I said, ‘Guys, there’s something happening down on the field. Turn your radios on.’”
Dillard had to run across not only half of the school but also the entire football field, because Flores had collapsed on the south side, away from the main entrance. She took over CPR until the ambulance arrived.
Within minutes, aid personnel were on scene and able to get Flores to breathe on his own.
“At that point, I go into a different mode,” Dillard said. “We have a parent to call, we have distraught students, a distraught teacher and three kids who were standing there.”
School staff ushered students into the gym, where counselors and the school psychologist were waiting for them.
“We gave a quick heads up to the students,” Dillard said. “We said, ‘He’s in good hands now. He’s alive. We’ll give you more information.’”
Two chaplains affiliated with the emergency medical service also spoke with students.
Former McKnight Middle School Vice Principal Anita Jose, who will be working at Hazen this year, knew Flores’ younger siblings and took on the role of contacting his family. Jose called in a Spanish interpreter and communicated to Flores’ family that he was being taken to the intensive care unit at Seattle Children’s.
Dillard then transitioned into the role of liaison between the Flores family and the Renton School District. She and others at Hazen and McKnight raised funds for the family June 23, the last day of school. Knowing how hectic it can be to cook when a loved one is in the hospital, Dillard used the fundraising money to buy the family a $300 Safeway gift certificate.
Hazen students also made a large “get well” banner for Flores to hang in his hospital room.
“When he was waking up, he was able to see the sign,” Dillard said. “His mom liked it, too.”
When Dillard called him a few days later, she was able to talk to Flores himself. He had no prior health condition known to the school and had made the mile-long run before with no problem. Flores is now out of the hospital, but he could not be reached for comment.
Landsverk, who worked in the Renton School District for two years as a physical education teacher and assistant football coach, has since moved to Texas.
“I really just reacted and began doing what I’ve been trained to do,” Landsverk said in a press release. “I wanted Henry to be OK.”
Looking back on the incident, Dillard noted it was lucky she was in her office when the student runner found her.
“The way they usually get a hold of me is they get a runner,” she said. “I wish there was better communication. Maybe this is an opportunity to look at that.”
Still, she praised Landsverk and his students for saving Flores’ life.
“It definitely takes teamwork,” she said. “No one person can stand alone, you must be team oriented.”
Reach Reporter Laura Geggel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.