It’s not often you’re in the right place at the right time when having a heart attack.
But on June 6 at Valhalla Elementary, school security officer Craig Plummer was.
While the school isn’t a fully equipped hospital by any means, its automated external defibrillator and trained staff are what saved Plummer’s life that day.
It was a regular Tuesday afternoon for Valhalla Elementary Principal Kristen Schroeder and lead security officer Parris Mamon. Schroeder was talking to newly-hired Plummer in her office and Mamon was talking to the “office ladies.” Then, Schroeder noticed something wasn’t right.
Plummer was sweaty and pale.
“I asked, ‘Are you OK?’ and he didn’t respond,” Schroeder said, noting that wasn’t typical of him. “He started to tip over in his chair and his feet kind of got tangled in the chair legs, and so I opened the door and shouted, ‘Medical, 911!’ “
Mamon said he could tell by the tone of Schroeder’s voice that something was wrong and when she shouted for help, he jumped into action. Mamon asked office staff to call 911 and locate the AED machine, which was in the cafeteria.
“I tried to get through the door, but Craig was kind of blocking the door from how he was laying,” Mamon said.
Mamon had to run around through the cafeteria to get to Plummer and Schroeder. When he arrived, they began the AED’s instructions.
It directed the two to place the AED patches on Plummer’s chest, clear the area and press the button. The AED administered two shocks followed by more instructions for CPR.
“I think we both said, ‘He’s not breathing, he’s not responding,’ ” Schroeder said. “I had somebody ask me if I was nervous about pushing the AED button, and I wasn’t because I felt like I couldn’t harm him any further than he had already demonstrated so only good could happen from that.”
Mamon said he felt a sense of calm when working with Schroeder despite his initial fears of breaking Plummer’s chest while giving CPR.
Medics arrived and took Plummer to a local hospital, but not before congratulating the pair.
“South King Fire & Rescue commends the school district for having AEDs in every school,” Capt. Jeff Bellinghausen said. “Recognizing the signs of cardiac arrest, learning CPR and being aware of how to use an AED saves lives.”
SKFR and Puget Sound Fire from Kent joined King County Medic One on scene.
Schroeder said her staff did what they’re supposed to do in such an emergency. Her physical education teacher cleared the “parent loop” in the parking lot so the emergency vehicles could have access, and organizers kept a volunteer tea event calm.
“Everybody knew something serious was going on, but nobody was frantic,” Schroeder said. “They kept going in the direction they need to go so that our school could keep functioning, which was amazing.”
Every school within Federal Way Public Schools has at least one AED, and staff are trained annually on how to use it. Additionally, they’re also trained in how to perform CPR and how to administer first aid, for which they can provide certification on a monthly basis.
“I’m proud of the members of our Federal Way Public Schools family who used their training to save the life of one of our staff members,” Superintendent Tammy Campbell said.
The district also recognized Plummer, Mamon, Schroeder and SKFR at the June 13 school board meeting.
“I think we were very lucky to be in the spot that we could assist somebody who needed help, and I think that I am very thankful that he was in our building where we had a machine instead of driving down the road or in the middle of his home,” Schroeder said. “I think that we’re just very thankful the equipment that we needed was right there and we could use it.”
To take advantage of free life-saving classes, contact South King Fire & Rescue at 253-946-7347.
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