Seizures in court get quick response

Four government employees leap to help man in distress

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Two deputy prosecutors and an elder abuse advocate rushed to the aid of a man who suffered a sudden series of seizures Thursday during change-of-plea hearings in a courtroom at the Clark County Courthouse.

“For 10 minutes, he was thrashing back in his seat,” said Alan Harvey, senior deputy prosecutor with the Major Crimes Unit.

“He made a loud yell. He was completely in a state of seizure, and he was almost catatonic,” Harvey added. “He was unresponsive to us and continued to cycle in and out of seizures.”

“He gave a horrible sound at the start of the seizures,” said Superior Court Judge Rich Melnick, who was conducting the hearings.

The victim had been sitting in the back of the courtroom, waiting his turn in a series of change-of-plea hearings.

“He was shaking and was in a full seizure,” Melnick said.

After the man yelled, three people who work for the prosecutor’s office immediately ran to help, Melnick said.

Harvey said the man wasn’t breathing well and seemed to be choking on his own blood.

Harvey, who’s taken first-aid classes, went to help the man breathe. So did Mary Todd, an elder abuse advocate who works for the prosecutor’s office, and Randy St. Clair, a deputy prosecutor for drug crimes.

With the man chomping on his heavily bleeding tongue, Todd held a pen in his mouth in order to stop the tongue injuries and bleeding, and open his airway, Harvey said.

St. Clair, who had medical training in the U.S. Marines, went to the man and tried to calm him down, not knowing if he was even conscious.

Harvey said they took hold of the man and arched his back, which caused his head to roll back and helped him breathe.

A sheriff’s deputy assigned to courthouse security also helped, said Harvey, who said he doesn’t know the deputy’s name.

Paramedics soon arrived to help the man, Richard Navarra of Vancouver, during a trip to a hospital.

The Columbian called Navarra’s home, where a woman said he wasn’t feeling well enough for an interview. She said she took him home Thursday.

“The great thing was, they just did it,” Melnick said. “They went immediately to assist. I can tell you they acted unselfishly. They just jumped right in.”

“It’s an inspiration,” Harvey said of aiding the man until paramedics arrived. He added that he plans to take a class to update his first-aid and CPR skills.

Fire departments often offer such classes.

John Branton: 360-735-4513; http://twitter.com/col_cops;john.branton@columbian.com.