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8/14/2013 6:00:00 AM
Choking student saved by nurse delivering cup of coffee
From left, Dan Robbins, Ron Young, Ashley Shaeffer and John Venenga worked together to save a 19-year-old special needs student at Kingman High School after he choked in the lunch room. (KIM STEELE/Miner)
From left, Dan Robbins, Ron Young, Ashley Shaeffer and John Venenga worked together to save a 19-year-old special needs student at Kingman High School after he choked in the lunch room. (KIM STEELE/Miner)

KINGMAN - For Ashley Shaeffer, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Shaeffer, 27, was delivering a cup of coffee to her mother at Kingman High School last week when she heard a call over the school's handheld radio system that a student was choking and unresponsive in the lunchroom.

Shaeffer's mom, Alisa Eyer, is administrative assistant to principal Patrick Carey. Shaeffer is a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit at Kingman Regional Medical Center.

"When I heard the announcement, I ran to the lunchroom," said Shaeffer. "The student was turning purple and he didn't have a pulse, so I immediately started CPR to keep his heart beating and circulate oxygen through his brain until an ambulance could get here. It's just second nature to me as a nurse. You do what you have to do to keep someone alive."

The 19-year-old special needs student, who has cerebral palsy and communicates with his hands, was eating lunch when he tried to swallow too much food. Shaeffer said there was so much food in his throat that she and school staff pulled some out five times before an ambulance arrived and emergency workers used a scope to remove the rest of it so he could breathe.

As of Tuesday, the student remained in the hospital, where he is being tested for swallowing problems. Shaeffer said she visited him after the incident and introduced herself to the young man, who smiled and waved at her.

"What I did was no big deal to me," said Shaeffer, who graduated in 2004 from KHS. "The emergency room doctor said the student wouldn't be here today if we hadn't done CPR. I'm proud that I'm homegrown and could pay back my community this way. This was exactly where God wanted me to be that day."

Ron Young, a second-year special education para-educator, said the incident began when he was helping in the lunchroom and a co-worker alerted him that something was wrong.

Young said he and Dan Robbins, another special education para-educator, quickly removed the restraints from the student, who uses a wheel chair, and began using the Heimlich Maneuver, an emergency technique to dislodge something stuck in a person's airway.

When that didn't work, they placed the student on the ground and continued trying to remove the food.

"It was a very scary situation, and at one point, I began wondering what we were going to do," said Robbins, who has taught for nine years. "When the nurse showed up, it was a big relief because we really felt helpless."

John Venenga, athletic director and assistant principal at KHS, said he placed the emergency call and sent out the radio message when the student choked.

The incident was traumatic for staff and the students who saw it, leaving many crying and shaken, Venenga said, adding that he is glad Shaeffer stopped by when she did.

"I'm just so impressed with this group of people and what they did for this student," said Venenga. "He doesn't have any muscle control, and Dan was holding him up while they were trying to do the Heimlich. Ron was sticking his fingers down the student's throat to remove food. Ashley was giving CPR to keep him alive.

"I'm so glad the student made it. What they did for him was very special."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Patty Wise

Well done Ashley Shaeffer and crew!

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Krystal Adame

As a sister of a nurse, I believe all nurses are under appreciated for all they do. Thank you Ashley for being so selfless. I understand it is your job and the word selfless may not descript what I'm trying to say, but I can not name a person I have ever met, a past or current friend or a family member who is a nurse and does jump to help during any type of situation. Thank you to all of our nurses!!!

Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Article comment by: Sherri Borden

True Blessing to all. So nice to read about something good - that could have been a tragic situation. I feel that every thing happens for a reason. The four of you were meant to be there. Good job guys. I am sure it wasn't easy to stay calm.

Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Article comment by: Brandyn's Family

The family of the choking student (his name is Brandyn) would like to send out a sincere thanks to all who were involved in this emergency. The article listed it correctly that if not for the quick thinking and response of everyone involved, we would not have our Brandyn with us today. He is a very loved person, and would have been greatly missed. Thank you all who helped him and God bless each one of you.

Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Article comment by: Lena Margita

Great Article! I might be a little biased since the student is family - but we are all grateful that Ashley's mom needed more caffeine for the first day of school!

Ashley - thank you so much for being in the right place at the right time and knowing what to do!

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