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Man's first aid training helps son

March 03, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

There aren't any children working at Performance Pipes Inc. on Hopewell Road.

That didn't matter to the employees who took first aid and CPR classes at the company in January. The classes included several parents and they figured it was a good idea to also learn about safety for children, which hadn't been taught at the company before.

Robert Summers, 26, of Hagerstown, a production operator, was in the Jan. 23 class. It was his day off, but the company paid him to come in for training.

Normally, Summers works a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift. But the training finished at about 4:30 p.m., so he was home early.

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Sometime around 6 p.m., maybe 6:30, Summers' 2-year-old son, Wyatt, woke up from a nap on the couch. He went into the kitchen to see his mother, Michelle, who was preparing dinner.

Summers was in the living room, holding his other son, Garrett, who is 7 months old.

Michelle Summers screamed.

Robert Summers rushed into the kitchen to find her holding Wyatt up by his shoulders. Wyatt was shaking and his face was turning blue.

He was having a seizure.

Summers grabbed Wyatt and brought him into the living room. He laid the boy on his side. He waited.

After maybe 30 seconds, Wyatt's airway cleared enough to let him breathe normally again.

Summers talked to a 911 dispatcher who told him to rouse his son. Several times, Summers loudly called to his son. Nothing happened.

The dispatcher suggested smacking the boy's foot, which Summers did. Again, no reaction.

By then, emergency medical technicians had reached the Summerses' house in Hagerstown's West End. Robert Summers remembers Wyatt starting to move after an EMT picked him up.

In the last five weeks, Wyatt has not had another grand mal seizure, but his family isn't sure what to expect next.

Summers is glad, though, that he knew what to do that frightening day in January.

"It was real weird," he said. "All that evening, while we were in the hospital, I was thinking, 'Man, I just took that class. Man, I just took that class.' "

"He did exactly what he was taught," said Cindy Earle, a registered nurse who taught Summers' class. He put Wyatt in a safe spot; he laid him on his side; he tilted his head back; he watched attentively.

As the coordinator for community health education at Washington County Hospital, Earle often teaches a National Safety Council first aid course and an American Heart Association CPR and defibrillation course at local businesses.

Companies rarely ask to learn more than the minimum certification requirements, she said. Staples' distribution center in Halfway is another business she could recall that has asked for child safety instruction.

Performance Pipe, a division of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP, manufactures polyethylene pipes.

The local plant has about 60 employees.

"We try to train about 15 to 30 percent of the employees (in first aid and CPR)," said Jody Chaney, the company's safety representative.

The day after Summers took immediate advantage of his training, Chaney called Earle and told her what happened.

"I could not believe it," Earle said. "It made me shake."

This was a first for Summers, too.

He said he has seen his cousin, who has cerebral palsy, have a seizure, but he was never the caregiver in charge when it happened.

Michelle Summers has epilepsy, but hasn't had a seizure in about eight years.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Wyatt had epilepsy, but there's nothing so far to prove that he does, his father said.

Since the grand mal seizure, Summers said, Wyatt - described as a daredevil who likes to jump off the couch - has had occasional petit mal seizures. He'll zone out for a few seconds, then come back.

Told how Summers helped his son, Patricia Raven, director of occupational services for the Safety Council of Maryland in Baltimore, said she has never heard of training coming in handy so quickly.

"That was truly amazing," she said.

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