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Shown in the photograph,
Katie Weiss sits between her parents, Andrea and Richard Weiss. Some the students who helped save Katie’s life are (back row l-r) Shad Ahmed of Warwick, Jeffrey Tagen of East Greenwich, Amy Swiencki of Richmond, Chris Dupuis of Manville, R.I., and Emily Paul of Baldwin, N.Y.

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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 401-874-2116

Eight URI students honored for saving Katie Weiss

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 10, 2003 -- When Katie Weiss of New City, N.Y., was looking for a college, she visited the University of Rhode Island. "As soon as I stepped on the campus, I knew this was the school for me. I just loved it," recalls the nursing student.

Weiss, a sophomore, has another reason not to regret her choice. Last December, eight other URI students saved her life. For their heroic efforts, they were recognized by the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education and presented with a framed resolution during URI’s annual Rainville Awards ceremonies on April 8.

"I’m not sure what happened," says Weiss who has epilepsy. "It was December 14. I was stressed out studying for my exams. I might have forgotten to take my medicine."

Kristin Rodina of Ridge, New York was in a shower stall in Hutchinson Hall, next to Weiss when she noticed Weiss was in distress. Pulling back the shower curtain, the wildlife and conservation biology major saw Weiss lying down with her head against the wall. When the 19-year-old sophomore shouted Weiss’ name and there was no response she figured that Weiss was having a seizure. Teresa Rodina who also lives in Hutchinson Hall heard her sister yelling and sensing something was wrong, came running to the shower area. While Kristin stayed with Weiss, Teresa sought help from residence assistant Frank Breau of Brewer, Maine.

After dialing for help, the two sought medical assistance from Emily Paul, also aresident of Hutchinson and, like Weiss, a volunteer member of URI’s Emergency Medical Services.

"I had to go on autopilot," recalls Paul, a freshman nursing student. "I had to forget that Katie and I were friends and let my brain, not my emotions, take over. I knew what I was doing."

By this time, Weiss had turned blue and had stopped breathing. Paul gave her friend mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Tossing aside praise for her own quick action, Paul who also has epilepsy says she doesn’t feel like a hero. "I just wish Katie didn’t have to go through this experience," she says.

Within five minutes, URI Emergency Medical Technicians Shad Ahmed of Warwick, Jeffrey Tagen of Narragansett, and driver Amy Swiencki of West Kingston arrived and raced Weiss to South County Hospital.

Paul called Weiss’ parents in New York and, was joined at the hospital first by Chris Dupuis of Manville, R.I. and later by Tagen. When Weiss’ parents arrived, the URI students helped update them before they visited Weiss in the Intensive Care Unit. Weiss lingered in a coma for three days. Doctors told her family they were unsure if she would wake up. When she did, she was so groggy she couldn’t speak clearly. All of her rescuers kept watch over Weiss’ progress until she was transferred to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx on Dec. 18. There doctors warned that she might not fully recover.

Paul, Swiencki, and Dupuis visited Weiss in the New York hospital on Dec. 29, the day before she was released.

After fully recovering at home, Weiss returned to URI on January 20 in time for the spring semester. With the exception of a note taker because of her new medication, Weiss is back to hitting the books as usual.

Weiss continues to be a volunteer member of URI’s Emergency Medical Services, run under the sponsorship of URI’s Health Services. The service provides emergency services and transport for the URI community.

"I really got lucky," the 19-year-old says. "There’s no brain damage. And I owe 100 percent of it to my friends."

Her parents urged URI President Robert L. Carothers to recognize the students who saved their daughter’s life. "We recognize that if it were not for these eight amazing URI students, Katie probably would not have survived…The University should be proud of the positive community values that these eight students have demonstrated," Andrea Weiss wrote to URI’s president.

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