RIDGEFIELD — Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue honored five La Center High School employees Thursday for jumping into action to save a student’s life after he suffered cardiac arrest on the morning of May 26.
Dozens gathered at Station 21 to see Daniel Ruiz, an associate principal; Sara Rideout, an arts and drama teacher; Coral Yee, a library technician; Denise Yurecko, an office assistant; and Denelle Eiesland, a health and physical education teacher, receive the Fire Chief’s Life Saving Award.
Each took different measures to save 15-year-old Triston Martell. They used CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock his heart into normal rhythm.
Triston survived and spent nearly three weeks in the hospital recovering. He visited the school for the first time since May 26 on Tuesday.
“Lots were excited to see me,” Triston said. “And the event (Thursday) was great, seeing all the people that were there to help.”
Fire Chief John Nohr told those gathered that “a lot of us do very important things each and every day.”
“But it’s not often that we’re presented with the opportunity for the obligation to save somebody’s life,” he said.
Rideout was one of the first people notified of Triston’s medical emergency. She rushed to the cabinet where the AED was stored and handed it off to the employees helping Triston. She was grateful, she said, to be surrounded by educators who knew what steps to take next.
“It was definitely a scary situation, something I’ve never had to experience before,” Rideout said. “So it was really nice to have people there that I just could trust completely, that I really felt like they knew what they were doing.”
Ruiz used his training as an EMT to evaluate Triston; he found Triston was not breathing and had no pulse. Ruiz performed CPR for nearly eight minutes — a task Nohr called “physically arduous” — until first responders arrived.
La Center High School will ensure that every incoming freshman will receive CPR training beginning next school year, Ruiz said.
According to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, school districts may offer CPR instruction directly or through community-based providers. La Center High School Principal Carol Patton said school district staff undergoes online training to review the basics of CPR and how to use an AED.
In Ruiz’s case, he is also an American Red Cross instructor and member of Cowlitz County Search & Rescue, Patton said. There could not have been a better person on scene, she added.
“It was a miracle,” Patton said. “It was just a miracle.”
Triston plans to spend his summer with friends and family — clamming, riding his dirt bike and boating, he said. He’s also looking forward to playing basketball again.
His parents, Marcus and Tiffany Martell, said they are grateful for what the community has done to save their son.
“He’s here today because of them,” Tiffany Martell said. “I look at them as our guardian angels that day. Words can’t show that gratitude and appreciation.”