Five School Employees Save a Washington Student's Life After His Heart Stopped


Five staffers at Desert Hills Middle School are being lauded as heroes after taking swift action to rescue a seventh-grader whose heart stopped during P.E. class.

Principal Casey Gant said the incident was handled so well because the right people were in the right place at the right time.

"To see the way they all reacted, it's pretty special," Gant said in a news alert posted by the Kennewick School District. "(The student) is going to come back to us, and the only reason is because of this crew."

Paraeducator Courtney Bissinger, teacher Kurtis Clawson, security officer Ken Lattin, coach and counselor Ben Schuldheisz, and P.E. teacher Shaun Suss all played vital roles in reviving the student.

The seventh-grader suffers from a seizure disorder and it's not uncommon for him to have seizures at school, the district said.

But Bissinger, who's worked with him for years, noticed something was different on Jan. 19 — the student collapsed in the school gymnasium, lost color in his face and stopped breathing.

As she tended to him, Suss ran to the office to call for an ambulance.

Clawson, a retired U.S. Marine with medical experience, took the student's pulse and felt nothing. Lattin, a retired Kennewick police officer, took charge as incident commander as Schuldheisz quickly retrieved the automated external defibrillator — a portable medical device that resuscitates people in cardiac arrest.

Schuldheisz administered the defibrillator, delivering shocks to the student's chest, and also conducted chest compressions.

Because of their quick action, the student began breathing on his own again, said the district. And, within 12 minutes, the student was in the back of an ambulance en route to a local hospital.

All public school buildings are equipped with defibrillators, and coaches, administrators and staff are trained on how to use them. A Park Middle School teacher used one last year after a student collapsed after a run.

"These are our kids," Schuldheisz said in a statement. "We see the good in them. We see the potential, the future. When one of them is hurting, it's hard. It affects you personally because these are our kids."

The student is recovering and is expected to return to school soon.