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Parents thankful for school life savers



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Jacob Richey, with his sister Hannah, was rescued by lifeguards and staff after suffering a seizure, to the relief of his thankful parents. Photo provided (click for larger version)
January 16, 2013 - Jon and Becky Richey's son Jacob is fully recovered after a close call last month in Clarkston High School's pool.

"He's back to his normal self," Becky said.

The Independence Township residents appreciate the quick action of lifeguards and staff (see "Parents thankful for school, community rescuers" on page 6). Jacob, who has autism, was swimming with his class in the high school pool, Dec. 18, when he suffered a seizure and lost consciousness.

Lifeguards noticed his plight, pulled him from the pool, and conducted CPR while Independence Township EMS were enroute.

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"They were fantastic," said Principal Gary Kaul. "They noticed he was in distress within seconds."

Lifeguards are well trained and policies in place, but each situation is unique, Kaul said.

"They worked smoothly and quickly," he said. "This is something we don't want to happen, but everything worked well."

Jacob was taken to Royal Oak Beaumont where he was kept overnight. He was allowed to return home the next morning.

"The trauma doctor said they deserve kudos – had they not done such an amazing job, things might have been different," said Becky, a former pediatric nurse.

Jacob was set to return to the high school pool this past Monday. He will wear a life jacket until he is seizure free for at least six months, she said.

"He loves the pool, it's his favorite part of the day," his mother said.

"He's like a fish," Jon said.

"The pool is an equalizer," Becky said. "He's like other kids there. It's great exercise, good sensory activity, it's really important."

When the family moved into the area nine years ago, they met with several special education directors before settling on Clarkston school district.

"Clarkston has an awesome special education program," Becky said.

"That's why we bought a house here," Jon said.

They have two children, Jacob, 14, and Hannah, 16, both students at Clarkston High School, and both autistic.

"Autism kids are all different, they really recognize that here," Becky said. "It's not cookie cutter – each student needs his or her own education plan."

In the school's LINK program, classmates come in throughout the day to work with the special-education students. They greet Jacob in the community whenever they see him, she said.

"It's so neat – with autism, it's a struggle to make friends," she said. "Otherwise he wouldn't know anybody. It makes the community safe for him emotionally."

"Both are doing so well," Jon said. "The staff is great. They care about the kids."

Community support also includes SCAMP every summer, their church, Woodside Bible in White Lake, and soccer, basketball, art, and other activities at Oakland University's OU Cares program.

"There are tons of resources and opportunity in the community," she said. "It makes me feel good to live in a community that really cares."

"It makes me really proud to live in Clarkston," Jon said. "I'm proud of the community."

The school district conducts ongoing training with lifeguards and ensures certifications and trainings are up to date, said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock.

Safety equipment is inspected and approved by Oakland County safety officials, schools have written safety procedures in place, and staff and teachers are trained in CPR and the use of AEDs.

"We are very fortunate to have such dedicated and professional staff, including our lifeguards, pool officials, secretaries, community education staff, custodians, support staff, teachers, and administrators," Rock said. "We are also deeply grateful to our police liaison and the Independence Township Fire Department for their service."

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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