December 9, 2016 at a Lethbridge school was truly one for the books for patroller Carey Rowntree and two colleagues who worked as a team to save the life of one of their students.
Teacher Nevin Morrison and a group of students were crossing an athletic field for their physical education class at their community ice rink when Nevin heard a commotion behind him. A female student had fallen and appeared to be hurt. The young teens were Nepali/Bhutanese refugees who were still overcoming language barriers.
When Nevin got to his student she was breathing but unresponsive; her friends reported that she collapsed but did not slip or hit her head. The temperature was -20C plus wind chill so he moved the patient back to the school as quickly as possible. Nevin delegated the task of carrying his patient while he used his cell phone to call 911.
Inside the school, Nevin sent the boys who assisted to find help from additional staff. They rounded up another Phys Ed teacher, Jonathan Dick, and finally the school’s principal, Carey Rowntree. When Carey arrived on the scene approximately two to three minutes since the student’s collapse, Nevin was still in contact with the 911 operator and Jonathan was attempting to verify a pulse. Carey assisted Jonathan and they noted that the patient’s breathing rapidly deteriorated from slow regular breaths to gasps every 30 seconds or so.
Carey instructed Jonathan to retrieve his office CPR kit mask and begin artificial respiration. The patient’s condition further deteriorated as breaths were going in but no pulse could be found. Carey began CPR compressions while Jonathan monitored for a pulse and Nevin relayed the patient’s status back to the 911 operator who advised that paramedics were en route. Another teacher was employed to deliver the school’s AED to the rescuers.
The AED recommended no shock and CPR was continued. Paramedics arrived and assumed support to the team through continuance of CPR, bag-valve mask and a tibia line. They connected their defibrillator unit to the patient and manually administered three shocks interspersed with compressions.
After 10 minutes of diligent treatment the patient’s pulse resumed and she regained her respirations with some continued assistance. She was then transported by airlift to the Calgary Children’s Hospital where she underwent surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. The student had a previously undetected heart defect.
After several days in hospital with her condition gradually improving as to regaining fine motor control skills and short term memory, the student returned to the classroom after being released from the hospital the day prior. Had it not been for the group of teachers and Carey’s excellent CSP skills, this situation would have had a far different outcome. It is also a credit to them and several other staff members who controlled the scene to buffer the other students from knowing the true gravity of their friend’s medical emergency.
It was a great honour to present the CSP Lifesaving Award to Carey Rowntree on his behalf and that of his co-workers, Nevin Morrison and Jonathan Dick, at the 2017 CSP Leadership Conference at Big White this past April.