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Asthma attack leads to District 1 changes
A scary experience has inspired changes at one Yuma Elementary School District 1 campus, but a mother says more can be done.
Annette Lagunas' son, who attends first grade at Alice Byrne Elementary, had to be flown to a Phoenix hospital in mid-September because of a severe asthma attack that began while he was attending class.
“The school wasn't equipped at the time to care for him and to understand how severe his problem was,” she said during a District 1 governing board meeting this week.
The boy complained of difficulty breathing to his teacher, who then sent him to see Shirley Rodriguez. She serves double duty as the school nurse and as Yuma School District 1 health services coordinator.
But he was sent by himself, Lagunas said. “He could have collapsed anywhere in between the classroom and the nurse.”
The nurse was not in her office when he arrived, so the boy went back to class without treatment and his condition continued to deteriorate, Lagunas continued.
“I don't feel Mrs. Rodriguez should be put in a position where she is having to care for all the children at her school, in addition to all the nursing staff in the entire district.”
The boy was eventually treated by his pediatrician. When that failed, his parents took him to the emergency room at Yuma Regional Medical Center. He was flown to Phoenix early the next morning and was admitted into the intensive care unit.
Lagunas was careful to note she was not “bashing Alice Byrne” over the incident. “I think their staff, their principal (and) their nurse are wonderful people. When I came to them after this happened, the support that my husband and I received was overwhelming.”
The school has since adopted an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality color-coded flag program. Separately colored flags are flown to show the level of air quality throughout the day.
“This program allows parents, school administrators, employees and the children to understand that the air quality does affect them,” Lagunas said.
The school also created a “buddy system” for those with serious health issues. Now when Lagunas' son has an asthma attack, he simply holds up a red card, and a buddy immediately walks with him to the nurse's office.
The nurse also makes a schoolwide announcement if she leaves her office at any point during the day.
Lagunas asked the governing board to consider making the procedures and the air quality program, which is overseen locally by the Yuma County Health Department, mandatory districtwide.
After hearing the story, board member Cathy Nicewander added that each campus needs its own dedicated licensed practical nurse at all times. Some campuses must share nurses because of budget cuts.
“We need nurses at schools,” Nicewander said. “We don't need aides, we need a nurse. Not one that is shared with another” school. “I know with budget cuts possibly coming up, it will be another nightmare next spring, but we have to get nurses back in our schools.”
The board agreed to place the issue on a future agenda for discussion.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.