Teachers save Deakin’s life

Deakin at his Grade 6 graduation with his parents and the teachers who saved his life.

By Rachel Hickingbotham

Last year, Tenneille and Lee Hawke came very close to losing their 12-year old son Deakin.

Deakin and his school mates from Drouin Primary School were on their Grade 6 school camp in Canberra last October, when he was bitten twice on the leg by an eastern brown snake, the second most venomous snake in the world.

Deakin says he didn’t see the snake before or after it bit him and that “it felt like a prickle bush”.

Fortunately, some other boys saw the snake and ran to tell their Principal, Brad Wheller.

Mr Wheller quickly found the snake and took a photo to confirm it.

Within 10 minutes of being bitten, Deakin had collapsed, stopped breathing, had no pulse and had gone into suspected cardiac arrest.

Thankfully, while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, a group of well-trained teachers from his school jumped into emergency mode applying pressure with immobilisation bandages to his leg, while starting CPR.

The bandaging slowed the venom from spreading while they worked hard to revive him.

One of Deakin’s teachers Candie Ellis-Williams told a TV reporter  “I went into autopilot because I’d had prior training. I just took Deakin, sat him down and went through the steps that I needed to take.”

Candie and fellow teacher, Dave Janssen, performed CPR on Deakin – a skill that all Victorian teachers are expected to be trained in.

Deakin was put in an ambulance and rushed to hospital where he miraculously made a full recovery, something Natalie Sindrey from St John Ambulance said would not have happened if it wasn’t for the medical treatment from his teachers.

“Straight after the bite they did an amazing job at doing the resuscitation (CPR), which is what they needed to do to keep him alive,” Ms Sindrey told reporters.

Principal Wheller travelled to Canberra Hospital with Deakin and stayed with him in the Emergency Department and for several hours in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) before heading back to camp.

His parents arrived from Drouin shortly after 3am. Deakin spent two days in ICU followed by two days in the Paediatric High Care Ward.

“He was hooked up to monitors with cannulas in each arm”, Tenneille.

Deakin took a full month off school to recover. Tenneille reported that eight days after the bite her son had developed multiple symptoms of ‘Serum Sickness’, a reaction from the anti-venom he was given to counteract the snake’s poison.

His symptoms included severe full body rashes, facial swelling and joint stiffness just to name a few. With all his discomfort along with x-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests, Tenneille said “it was not all smooth sailing, but he took it all in his stride and handled it like a true legend”. After his month of recovery, Deakin was able to return to school, finish Grade 6 and graduate from primary school. He is now settled into Year 7 at his new high school.

MP for Narracan, Gary John Blackwood commended the teaching staff of Drouin Primary School at Victoria’s State Parliament for their quick-thinking and the outstanding first aid skills that saved the student’s life.

Deakin’s parents share details of their son’s traumatic near-death experience as a way of bringing awareness about the severity of a snake bite and the importance of proper first aid training.

The family have acknowledged the amazing staff at Drouin Primary School. Paramedics said: “If it had not been for the quick-thinking and outstanding first aid skills of the teaching staff, Deakin would not be alive today”.

Most of all, Deakin’s parents are proud of their son.

“Lee and I couldn’t be prouder of Deakin. What he has been through is seriously any parent’s worst nightmare! Deakin has been the bravest and most courageous 12-year-old we know”.