Decas Elementary School staff hailed after saving 11-year-old’s life

Dec 20, 2018

Nine Decas Elementary School staff members were honored by the School Committee on Thursday for working to save the life of an 11-year-old student who stopped breathing.

On Dec. 4, Mary Brown was dropping off her children at school, including her daughter Alissa. The Decas student, who suffers from multiple health issues, including a brain tumor and seizure disorder, had fallen asleep in the car. When one of Alissa’s siblings attempted to wake her, she found her sister wasn’t breathing.

Brown said she began performing the Heimlich maneuver on Alissa. When that didn’t revive Alissa, Brown yelled for help.

Decas teacher Michelle Skolnik ran across the parking lot followed by Manny Borges. Both started CPR. School Nurse Sheila Braley joined them soon after and stared performing chest compressions.

Brown said Alissa started breathing again soon after. Several others stepped in to make sure first responders had a clear path to the school Brown credited the staff for saving her daughter’s life.

First responders then arrived and Alissa was taken to Tobey then Children’s Hospital. Brown said doctors believe Alissa’s airway was cut off when her head fell forward after she fell asleep. Brown said her daughter’s medical issues include low muscle tone, which may have led to the difficulty breathing.

On Thursday, staff members, Brown and Alissa attended the committee’s meeting. Joining them was Massachusetts Teacher’s Association President Merrie Najimy who offered praise.

“They told me the story and I got chills,” said Najimy. “It’s a beautiful story, but not a surprising story. It’s educators acting on their instincts.”

She added that their actions were nothing short of heroic.

“It’s a story of everyday people doing extraordinary things,” said Najimy.

School Committee members also praised the staff. Committee Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi said their commitment to all students was inspirational.

“We’re proud of all our educators in our schools,” said Bacchiocchi. “Especially on a day like that.”

In addition to  Skolnik, Borges and Braley, the following staff members were recognized for helping Alissa: Nicole Roberge, Anne Ames, Helene Owen, Alice Galvin, Skippy Wilcox and Christine Savoie.