Evergreen High student whose heart stopped has surgery, is reported in high spirits

School staff saved her life with CPR, external defibrillator

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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An Evergreen High School student underwent surgery Friday to install a defibrillator after she collapsed at school this week, measuring no pulse and no heartbeat.

Heidi Stewart, 18, doesn't remember much about Tuesday's incident during leadership class, said her father, William Stewart.

Heidi, student body vice president, was heading to the student center to hang up hearts for Valentine's Day when her heart stopped.

School staff rushed to her aide, performing chest compressions and administering three shocks from an automated external defibrillator, a portable life-saving device, before she was revived.

"Without that, she wouldn't be here," Stewart said.

As paramedics arrived at the school, staff members called her parents. It's news, Stewart said, that makes any parent's heart sink. Heidi was rushed to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and has been there ever since, undergoing testing and surgery.

Doctors aren't positive what's wrong, but they do know she suffered sudden cardiac arrest. The condition usually results from an electrical disturbance in the heart that affects its pumping action, suddenly halting blood flow to the rest of the body.

Although she has had heart screenings before, the teen was never diagnosed with a heart rhythm issue.

She swam competitively on a club team and for the high school through the fall season this year, retiring from the sport because it hurt her shoulders.

"She was in great shape," William Stewart said.

Swimming didn't cause her heart to stop, cardiologists say.

Heidi is expected to stay in the hospital one to four days after Friday afternoon's defibrillator installation surgery so physicians can monitor how she responds to treatment and do more testing. The defibrillator is her safety net.

Her parents are grateful for the school staff's swift response and to the Quinn Driscoll Foundation for donating the two automated external defibrillators to Evergreen High. She was in the right place at the right time, with the right people. Ever since she woke from the ordeal, she's been in high spirits, Stewart said.

After all, she just wants to get better and get back to class.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.