Location: Brementon, Washington
Date: September 14, 1992
On the morning of September 14, 1992, the new fall term at Tracyton Elementary School in Brementon, Washington, was into its second week, and eleven-year-old Aaron Rankin and his best friend, Chris Sander, were among the students in Randy Corbett's new sixth grade class. That afternoon, forty-year-old Mr. Corbett, an eighteen-year-veteran-teacher, had just begun his math lesson for the class. He was standing next to the table where Aaron and three other students, children he barely knew, were seated. Mr. Corbett was in the middle of writing a math problem on the overhead projector when he suddenly collapsed face first on Aaron's desk.
Aaron's classmates started giggling. They thought Mr. Corbett was fooling around, but Aaron knew this was no joke. He laid Mr. Corbett on the floor and checked for a pulse and breath. Mr. Corbett had neither, so Aaron, who had been trained in CPR by his parents, began the procedure on his teacher. There were more chuckles from students when they saw Aaron giving Mr. Corbett mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But the mood quickly changed when Aaron told Chris to get help. Chris ran to the main office and told the secretary what had happened. As she called 911, the student's principal, Ann Lawrie, who had taken annual CPR training for the past twelve years, ran to Mr. Corbett's classroom.
Teacher Ben Pederson heard the commotion from next door and went into Mr. Corbett's room too. Mr. Pederson checked Mr. Corbett, found him to without a pulse or breath, and took over CPR from Aaron. Ann Lawrie arrived, and she and Mr. Pederson performed CPR together until a gym teacher, who was even more experienced in CPR than Mr. Pederson, took over and continued administering CPR with Ann. Aaron was in tears as he stood with the other students and watched. "Aaron was crying and shaking because he thought Mr. Corbett was going to die," recalls Chris. "And he thought he could have done more."
Within six minutes of the emergency call, the Kitsap County Fire District Rescue Squad arrived with paramedic Brian Danskin. As Danskin ran toward the classroom, he noticed a sign pasted on the window announcing "Mr. Corbett." Danskin was struck because Mr. Corbett had been his sixth grade teacher. It wasn't until he knelt on the floor to assist with the ventilations that Danskin discovered that his victim was Mr. Corbett himself. Paramedics shocked Mr. Corbett's heart using a defibrillator, but it did not regain its regular rhythm. They shocked him a second, third, and fourth time without success.
"The time that the paramedics were working on Randy were the scariest and most frightening, most horrifying seventeen minutes of my life," says principal Lawrie. "I wanted the paramedics to be done and I wanted the happy ending to be right then and there." After the fifth shock, Mr. Corbett's heart restablished a regular rhythm and he was stabilized enough to be transported to the hospital.
Doctors determined that Mr. Corbett's was suffering from an inherited condition that causes the electric currents in his heart to malfunction, which led to his cardiac arrest. A "defibrillator" was implanted in his chest to control the problem.
Mr. Corbett was released after seven days in the hospital. Six weeks later, he was well enough to return to his classroom. His wife says Randy is a lucky man. Because Randy was the only member of his family who was trained in CPR, he probably would have died had he experienced his cardiac arrest while at home. As a result, everyone in Mr. Corbett's family has now taken CPR training. Administrators at Tracyton Elementary School were also sufficiently impressed by the incident to hold CPR training for their students. " I believe that all children should be taught CPR all over the United States in school," says Randy Corbett. "And if they're taught, there will be a lot of live saved."
The Central Kitsap School District and the local Heart Association honored Aaron Rankin for his heroism and for saving Mr. Corbett's life. "I was proud of myself and I was glad that I was there that day," says Aaron. "Before it happened, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I'm going to be a paramedic."