Teacher's medical training saves a collapsed student


Staff writer

When a student collapsed on the school’s running track several weeks ago, Sacajawea Middle School physical education teacher Jennifer Von Doehren knew what to do.

“We were immediately there and assessed the situation and discovered that he needed medical assistance,” Von Doehren said. “We checked his pulse. He had a pulse, but was out cold.”

Von Doehren is trained in cardio pulmonary resuscitation and recognized the student’s airway was blocked. She administered CPR, notified the school nurse and school officials through her walkie-talkie and called paramedics.

The student, whose name school officials won’t release, was taken to the hospital and was back in class soon after.

It’s believed the boy tripped and fell, hitting his head, Von Doehren said.

“We have a really good procedure to responding to medical emergency,” Von Doehren said. “We have a radio (walkie-talkie) with us at all times.”

Federal Way Public Schools spokeswoman Diane Turner said the two-way radios were purchased with district bond money several years ago.

Von Doehren also dealt with a collapsed student three years ago. But that time, the student did not survive.

The student was walking and running around the track field with classmates, then suddenly collapsed. Von Doehren called for assistance and began administering CPR.

“We got a chance to practice our emergency response and everything clicked,” Von Doehren said. “We had six people there and they were all AED-certified.”

AED stands for automated external defibrillation, a portable device that gives a malfunctioning hearta series of electric shocks. The shocks attempt to restore rhythm to a heart that is fibrillating –– very rapid, irregular contractions of the heart.

Sacajawea vice principal Tom Omli said all coaches and any other school staff who will be in contact with students engaged in physical activity are trained for CPR.

Every two years, the district pays for Von Doehren’s recertification in CPR.

In September 2000, Thomas Jefferson High School student Jean Marie Sanson died while competing in a swim meet. Doctors ruled sudden cardiac arrest as the cause of death.

CPR resucitated her once briefly, but what she really needed was a defibrillator, which was not on site at the swim meet.

Sanson’s mother, Rita Sanson-Sallee, has since embarked on a mission called Project Jean to raise money for defibrillators, which she wants to place in every Federal Way school.

Collecting old cell phones, holding car washes and hosting 5-K runs have been the several ways Sanson-Sallee has raised money for the defibrillators, which cost about $2,500 each.

A firefighter’s daughter came up with the newest fund-raising idea: Creating and selling a Federal Way firefighter’s cookbook.

Firefighter Jeff Bellinghausen’s daughter Whitney made the cookbook her class project. Proceeds go to Project Jean.

Federal Way Fire Department Medical Services Officer (MSO) Ed Plumlee, whose children were classmates of Sanson, said the cookbook — which is being sold for $12 by the Federal Way Firefighters Foundation — is a spiral-bound paperback with color photos of dishes and firefighters. Recipes include Italian Tofu, Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake and Stuffed Mushrooms. More information is available at

Besides Sacajawea, Beamer, Jefferson and Federal Way high schools and the Truman Center alternative high school have defibrilators. Decatur High and Totem Middle School are awaiting reception of defibrillators after staff training — which is currently underway — is complete.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565,

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