La Center High School employees honored for saving the life of a student

John Nohr, the chief of Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, honors five La Center High School employees with the Fire Chief’s Life Saving Award. Daniel Ruiz, Coral Yee, Denelle Eisland, Denise Yurecko and Sara Rideout all played pivotal roles in saving the life of a student who suffered cardiac arrest last month. Photo by Paul Valencia
John Nohr, the chief of Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, honors five La Center High School employees with the Fire Chief’s Life Saving Award. Daniel Ruiz, Coral Yee, Denelle Eisland, Denise Yurecko and Sara Rideout all played pivotal roles in saving the life of a student who suffered cardiac arrest last month. Photo by Paul Valencia

Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue gives Fire Chief Life Saving Award to five people

A student dropped to the floor of a hallway at his high school last month.

Unresponsive.

Not breathing.

In an instant, the La Center community jumped into action.

Thursday, five La Center High School employees were honored with the Fire Chief’s Life Saving Award presented by Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue.

In attendance at the ceremony for the heroes? The student and his family.

Triston Martell shook hands and gave hugs to the people who saved his life on May 26. He gave them updates on the state of his health, too.

Triston and his family do not have the answers yet to why his heart stopped that Thursday morning. They might never know. 

But they do know Triston likely would not be here without the efforts of Denelle Eisland, Sara Rideout, Daniel Ruiz, Coral Yee, and Denise Yurecko.

“Today is a day for us to really share our gratitude and appreciation for our guardian angels being there with him that day,” said Triston’s mother, Tiffany Martell. “They all played such a major role. They never left his side. They never gave up.”

John Nohr, the chief of Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, detailed what each of the five heroes did that day to save Triston’s life. 

Rideout, an art and drama teacher, recognized that if this was indeed a cardiac arrest, the best chance of survival was the use of an Automated External Defibrillator. She rushed to the school’s commons area, where an AED is stored, and delivered it to the other Good Samaritans who were on scene.

Triston Martell (in hat) stands with his dad Marcus, his mom Tiffany, and his sister Whitney on Thursday in front of a Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue vehicle. Triston, 15, suffered a cardiac arrest last month at La Center High School, and five school employees jumped into action to save his life. Photo by Paul Valencia
Triston Martell (in hat) stands with his dad Marcus, his mom Tiffany, and his sister Whitney on Thursday in front of a Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue vehicle. Triston, 15, suffered a cardiac arrest last month at La Center High School, and five school employees jumped into action to save his life. Photo by Paul Valencia

Ruiz, an assistant principal at La Center and a former Emergency Medical Technician, recalled his training. He began performing cario-pulmonary resuscitation on Triston. Ruiz continued with chest compressions even after the first two firefighters arrived on scene. In all, Ruiz performed the chest compressions for eight minutes. 

Eisland, a health and physical education teacher, is required to be certified in CPR. As Ruiz was starting chest compressions, she recognized the importance of providing rescue breaths to Triston. Providing rescue ventilation at the appropriate rate is one of the biggest challenges of performing good CPR, the chief said.

Yee was one of the first to get to Triston. She turned Triston on to his back and directed others to call 9-1-1. She also cut off Triston’s sweatshirt and T-shirt in order for the AED pads to be placed on Triston’s chest and back. It was her quick response that got the life-saving operation in motion.

Yurecko, an office assistant, applied the AED pads to Triston and advised the others to stop CPR in order for the AED to analyze the heart rhythm. Upon direction from the AED, Yurecko pushed the button to deliver a shock to Triston’s heart. CPR resumed for two more minutes before Yerecko again looked for the AED to monitor the heart. Again, she pressed the button to shock the heart. 

Firefighters/EMTs arrived and took over the operation with all five La Center heroes continuing to assist.

Marcus Martell, Triston’s dad, said he rushed to the school as soon as he got a call from one of Triston’s friends.

“I walked in about the time he was taking his first breath,” Marcus said.

“We sure appreciate what everybody did,” he added.

Triston, 15, made it back to school for the final two days of classes. He was not overwhelmed by his return.

“It was easy because it was the last days. No school work. I got to hang around with friends. There were kids who were excited to see me,” Triston said. “I was able to make it to all my teachers.”

Triston Martell talks to firefighter Zach Galster on Thursday. Galster was one of the first responders to arrive at La Center High School after five school employees started life-saving efforts on Martell, who suffered a cardiac arrest. Photo by Paul Valencia
Triston Martell talks to firefighter Zach Galster on Thursday. Galster was one of the first responders to arrive at La Center High School after five school employees started life-saving efforts on Martell, who suffered a cardiac arrest. Photo by Paul Valencia

It was a celebrated return for those who helped him that day.

“The biggest reward is to see him, to see him back in school being a normal kid,” Ruiz said.

“To see him up and moving, it’s incredible,” Yurecko said. “Strong person. He’s a strong person. Amazing.”

As far as her actions that day, and the actions of her colleagues, she said they were all about instincts.

“We’re parents You go into ‘Mom Mode.’ You don’t even think about what you’re doing. You just say, ‘We’re not going to lose this kid. This is a child. We’re going to keep this child going.’ You don’t really think. You just react. You just go.”

Ruiz said it was “wonderful” to be saluted by the community, by Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue. 

“I was able to help them help Triston,” he said.

Triston thanked his heroes and told them about his progress. He did not have any broken ribs from the CPR. He does have an implant — a defibrillator/pacemaker — in case it happens again.

“I feel back to normal, as before,” he said. 

But something will be different for the family next May 26.

“Thank God he’s here,” his mother said. “He’s our miracle baby. He’s got a second birthday we get to celebrate every year.”

Thanks, in large part, to five quick-thinking La Center High School employees.


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