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GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

Professor Revives Child Near Death in Africa

By Doug McPherson
Jan. 20, 2011

Beach in east Africa.

Think you have a good story about your winter break? Phil Tedeschi sure does.

Tedeschi, a clinical associate professor in the University of Denver'sGraduate School of Social Work, spent two weeks in December in east Africa as part of a class he teaches called Social Work in Kenya: Context, Empowerment, and Sustainability. The class exposes students to the difficulties in the region and challenges them to develop ways to support the people there.

The day before the class was to return to the United States, Tedeschi and students spent a little time experiencing the beauty of the beaches of the Indian Ocean.

"There were hundreds of people just lounging and enjoying the warm waters," Tedeschi says.

But on this day, the tide was low - low enough that people could walk several hundred yards into the ocean. In fact, locals call it "the drowning tide" because it often forms small but relatively deep pools of water that are often difficult to see.

A few minutes after arriving, a colleague alerted Tedeschi that there had been an accident. Tedeschi noticed a group of men pulling a surf board with a small boy on it, about 6 years old, face down and not moving.

"I immediately went over to see what was going on. I turned the boy over and his eyes were open and fixed, he wasn?t breathing and he had foam around his mouth and nose," Tedeschi says. "But I did notice he had a good heartbeat."

Tedeschi, who's trained as a wilderness emergency medical technician, quickly blew a rescue breath into the boy and turned him to the side.

"That's when he expelled a lot of water, so I put him on his back and gave him another breath and again he expelled more water," Tedeschi says. "He had a dazed look for about 30 seconds and then let out a loud scream and began crying. That's when I knew he was going to be OK."

Tedeschi says he never saw or met the boy's parents.

"I don't think they knew what to do for him The men who brought the boy to shore were going to claim him as dead," Tedeschi says.

And more good news: Tedeschi is now communicating with a Kenyan organization he works with as part of the social work class to start emergency medical and CPR training there.

"I think that's something that may help," Tedeschi says.

This story and others can be found at DU Today.