'He could die': Boy with breathing tube kept home from school until staff trained

A mother in St. John's says a lack of staff properly trained to handle her son's medical needs makes the classroom a dangerous place.

Kara Press said she would like to send her six-year-old son Felix to school with his friends, but the boy has a breathing tube and she's afraid he could die if there's an emergency and staff don't know what to do.

Press said Felix needed a tracheotomy shortly after he was born. Since then, there have been several scares, and she is worried about what could happen in a kindergarten classroom.

"If his trach were to fall out or get blocked, which has happened a number of times, he has literally 20 seconds before he's lights out. Purple, unconscious on the floor," she said.

"We've had to revive him ourselves, and it's really scary in that moment when you have a child who can't breathe. They're unconscious on the floor and you have to bring them back to life." 

Press said Felix's doctor calls this a "life-threatening event" if proper precautions are not taken, and helping him requires a lot of training and experience.

3 hours not enough

"If you don't suction him right away, if you don't put the trach back in right away, he could die, and he has died a number of times, but we've brought him back to life," she said.

"He's been resuscitated 18, 19 times, so we're very lucky that he's here now, but it takes people with a lot of expertise to know how to take care of him."

Press said she had to complete two weeks of training after Felix was born.

"We had to do three trach changes before we were able to take him home [from the hospital]. In school, the student assistants, all we could get for him was a half-day of training, three hours of training, which just isn't good enough," said Press.

"It wouldn't fly in the hospital to have someone take care of him who only had three hours of training. Why should it be different now that he's in school?"

She said she has had many meetings with the administration at Mary Queen of Peace Elementary, where her son is zoned to go. The school is sympathetic but its hands are tied, as the school board won't provide more training for school staff. 

Press said the board could only offer to give multiple student assistants the same three-hour training, but that still isn't enough to properly care for children like Felix.

Other families 'terrified'

She also said it's not just Felix who won't be able to get adequate medical care while in class. 

"In the next few years, I know of five kids with tracheostomies, with airways as severe as Felix, that are coming in right behind him," said Press.

"He's not the only one, there's going to be more, and I feel like I owe it to them also to speak up for our kids so that they're safe in school."

Press said she has spoken to the other families, who she says are "terrified" for their children. Ultimately, she just wants it to be safe to send Felix to school.

"I would rather him go to school with everyone else. I want him to learn with his friends. I just want it to be safe to send him. I want someone that is adequately trained."