I worked at public schools for years, and a common sight would be a student stepping away to use an inhaler. Occasionally, a kid would forget to bring one, or they would lose theirs, and I would notice them sitting on the floor gasping for breath as school staff scrambled to track down family members or the school nurse who could quickly provide one.
It was always a disturbing and tense scenario, one that I could never shake off, one that is stuck in my memory forever, one that made adults and students alike feel helpless as we tried to comfort the panicky, choking child trying to cope until help arrived.
Twelve-year-old Philadelphia sixth-grader Laporshia Massey had an asthma attack at school and died later that day.
Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, there was no nurse on campus, nor was there a trained medical professional to recognize how serious her symptoms were. So they did what we found ourselves doing, they told her to try to remain calm. The difference was, we were fully staffed and could respond quickly and efficiently.
Laporshia was denied the attention and care she needed, so by the time she was taken to the hospital, it was too late. She lost her life.
Sixth-grader Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications, according to her father, who says he rushed her to the emergency room soon after she got home from school on the afternoon of Sept. 25. He says Laporshia had begun to feel ill earlier that day at Bryant Elementary School, where a nurse is on staff only two days a week. This day was not one of those days.
Daniel Burch, Laporshia’s father, is angry and wants to know whether Philadelphia’s resource-starved school district failed to save his daughter’s life.
“If she had problems throughout the day, why … didn’t [the school] call me sooner?” asks Burch... “Why,” he asks, “didn’t [the school] take her to the hospital?”
Burch's fianceé, Sherri Mitchell, got a call from school during which Laporshia told her, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Neither Burch nor Mitchell realized how serious the situation was, thinking that a trained professional at the elementary school would diagnose her.
When Laporshia went to the teacher, she was told that there was "no nurse and just to be calm.” Once school let out, a school staff member drove Laporshia home.
When she got there, her father immediately gave her medication and rushed her to the hospital.
She collapsed in the car, at which point Burch flagged down a passing ambulance in the middle of traffic. Burch says his daughter later died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. [...]
The District source believes that Laporshia’s life could have been saved if the school had responded appropriately to her illness. “If they had called rescue, she would still be here today,” the source said.
The Philadelphia school district has been underfunded; Gov. Tom Corbett's budget cuts have let 3,000 staff members go since June. Per the City Paper article, after the initial cuts, a nurse specifically warned that "other staff were not competent to deal with asthmatic students in her absence."
Sadly, the nurse was right.