Heroes hailed for their lifesaving roles

Near-drowning victim, 4, expected to make complete recovery

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter


Updated: September 8, 2011, 7:41 PM


Early CPR made the difference, officials say

Early CPR is being credited with helping save a 4-year-old girl’s life after she nearly drowned Sunday at Klineline Pond.

Three bystanders performed CPR on the girl until emergency responders arrived. Initially, though, some people were hesitant to act because the girl had blood in her mouth, said Dawn Johnson, spokeswoman for Clark County Fire District 6.

The good news is the new method for providing CPR doesn’t require mouth-to-mouth contact, she said.

Clark County Fire District 6 firefighter-paramedic Jeff Killeen demonstrated hands-only CPR at a news conference Thursday.

People giving CPR should place their hand on the person’s chest, about even with the middle of the nipples. For a child, use only one hand; for an adult, use both with one on top of the other.

They should push down on the victim’s chest about one-half to one-third of an inch at a speed of 100 compressions per minute, Killeen said. They may feel ribs cracking or cartridge separating from the sternum; however, they should not stop compressions, he said.

People performing CPR should continue with chest compressions until paramedics arrive. It takes 60 compressions to get blood flowing and only three seconds of no compressions for the blood flow to slow again, Killeen said.

Killeen also offered tips for bystanders who spot a person in trouble in the water.

The general rule of thumb, he said, is if you can’t hold the person on your hip, don’t go in after them. If the victim is too big for the rescuer, it could mean both people will end up in trouble, Killeen said.

From the shore, bystanders should throw a rope or life jacket, if possible, and always try to remember the spot where a person was last seen before going underwater, he said.

­­­­­— Marissa Harshman

When Jamie Piña pulled 4-year-old Andrea Jack’s limp body from Klineline Pond Sunday evening, he feared the worst.

“I was thinking she was dead,” the Vancouver man said.

But Thursday morning, as he and two other bystanders were honored for helping save the girl’s life, Piña learned Andrea would soon return home.

The Vancouver girl was discharged Thursday from The Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland. And according to her doctors, Andrea has no neurological damage and has a “perfectly normal” prognosis.

“She is running, playing and is back to her normal self,” said Dr. Mark Buchholz, co-medical director of the hospital’s children’s transport team.

The happy ending is due, in large part, to the swift action of Piña, Vancouver resident Mourice Hernandez and Portland resident Keeona Vance, who took turns performing CPR on the girl on the shore, said Dawn Johnson, spokeswoman for Clark County Fire District 6.

“It’s because of the early care that Andrea is here. The outcome is so great because of your actions that day,” Johnson told the bystanders.

The trio was recognized by Fire District 6 with Lifesaving Awards during a press conference at the hospital Thursday morning.

Andrea’s mother, Juleen Lipai, also gave tearful thanks to the bystanders and professionals who rescued her daughter.

“I want to thank everyone who saved my daughter because without you, I wouldn’t have her with me,” she said. “So thank you all. Thank you.”

The incident unfolded at about 5 p.m. Sunday at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek.

Piña’s wife, Erika Marquez, was wading in the shallow water with their 1-year-old daughter when she spotted Andrea floating face down in the water. She called for Piña, who was on shore with their other children, to check on Andrea. Initially, the couple thought the little girl was just playing, Marquez said.

Piña pulled the 4-year-old out of the water, laid her in the sand and began CPR, calling on the training he received 10 years ago through his employer. The other bystanders, Hernandez and Vance, ran to assist Piña while others called 911.

Clark County Sheriff’s deputies were first on the scene. They carried Andrea to the parking lot, where she was picked up by American Medical Response.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Andrea was breathing on her own and crying. She was cold, shivering and had vomited a few times, said Jeff Killeen, a Fire District 6 firefighter/paramedic who responded to incident.

Andrea was first taken to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, where emergency department staff inserted a breathing tube. The children’s transport team from Legacy Emanuel was dispatched to transport the girl because a stronger ventilator was needed. The team has a high-frequency ventilator that was more effective on the girl’s water-filled lungs.

Physicians began preparing for lung and heart transplants, should they be necessary. But in the next few hours, Andrea slowly improved, Buchholz said.

Two days later, Andrea was off of the ventilator. And four days after the incident, she was discharged from the hospital, Buchholz said.

“She is very lucky,” said Dr. Opher Nadler, interim director of the Children’s Emergency Department the hospital.

The physicians and paramedics stressed the importance of water safety and pleaded for parents to use caution as they head to waterways this hot weekend.

“The best emergency treatment for drowning is never needing that treatment at all,” Nadler said.

The professionals advised parents to always keep children at arm’s length and constantly keep them in sight. They also urged parents to keep their children in life jackets, especially in open water where depths and currents can abruptly change.

“You just don’t know what’s under the surface of the water,” said Johnson, with Fire District 6.

While Sunday’s incident had a happy ending, not every case ends so well, said Buchholz, adding that there had been 22 drownings in the metro area in the last four years.

Piña was relieved to learn earlier this week that Andrea had survived the near-drowning. He and his wife visited Andrea at the hospital Wednesday as the little girl with curly brown hair smiled at visitors and watched TV.

“When I saw her alive, I was so happy,” Piña said. “I felt it in my heart.”

Marissa Harshman: http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com; 360-735-4546.