Valley Regional Fire Authority Deputy Chief Dave Larberg gives instruction to Auburn Mountainview High School students Ashley Tran, left, and Makena Madsen during their visit Nov. 27. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Valley Regional Fire Authority Deputy Chief Dave Larberg gives instruction to Auburn Mountainview High School students Ashley Tran, left, and Makena Madsen during their visit Nov. 27. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Without missing a beat

Teen who survived a heart attack 9 months ago urges classmates to learn CPR

Nearly nine months ago, first responders saved Reese Marlenee’s young life.

Last week, thankful to be alive, Marlenee welcomed rescuers to her high school to teach students the same lifesaving skills that saved hers.

“It’s important that everybody knows CPR, no matter how old they are,” said Marlenee, watching Valley Regional Fire Authority firefighters and paramedics teach teens the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in 10-minute stations scattered over the gymnasium floor at Auburn Mountainview High School. “It’s important to learn how to do CPR, because I’m 16 and I had a heart attack. You can be 80 or you can be 1 (and) have a heart attack.”

The Nov. 27 heart-awareness event was Marlenee’s DECA class project, and her opportunity to give something back. The VRFA, as it does for communities throughout its jurisdiction, welcomed the invitation, and joined Marlenee to organize the program.

“For her to recover the way that she did and to have the ability and the maturity to put on an event like this speaks a lot about her character,” said VRFA Capt. Ryan Freed, who kept three morning sessions of work stations rotating on time. “It would be really hard for someone her age to be able to reflect back on something like that. It’s trauma, and to actually to put herself out there and be vulnerable for the betterment of fellow students says a lot about her.”

Marlenee has come a long way since March 5 when she collapsed poolside at water polo practice and went into cardiac arrest. Her coach, Jenni Pritchard, and the Auburn School District pool’s well-trained lifeguards quickly came to the fallen girl’s aid, called 911. and methodically performed two-person CPR until emergency personnel arrived within minutes to relieve them.

Medics rushed Marlenee to Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Hospital in 23 minutes.

Three days later, Marlenee underwent six hours of corrective surgery at Seattle Children’s hospital, where doctors discovered she had a heart defect, a condition called ALCAPA (anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery) syndrome. It is a rare, congenital coronary artery anomaly that may cause dangerously poor cardiac function.

“Without CPR, she most likely would not be with us today,” said her mother, Jessica.

This Sunday, with the help of medicine, and the strong support of family and friends, Marlenee celebrates her 17th birthday.

“She is my hero,” said her mother. “I cannot imagine going through what she has and be doing as well as she is. She is a remarkable human and such an inspiration to others.”

Marlenee, a junior, is pulling good grades. Her smile, reluctant in recovery, has returned to light up her face.

She has since returned to the waters, diving and competing in the 50-yard freestyle and 200 freestyle relay for the Auburn Mountainview swim team this fall. She intends to rejoin the Lions’ water polo lineup come spring.

“It was nice,” Marlenee said of reuniting with her teammates. “I did pretty good without having any training (in the freestyle races).”

To show her appreciation and to recognize those responsible for saving her life, Marlenee personally thanked first responders during an April 17 ceremony at the pool. The VRFA extended Life Saving Awards to those who helped revive the girl during the gathering.

Marlenee kept the VRFA in mind when the opportunity came to host a CPR event last week.

Given a broad introductory overview to CPR, many students signed up for a more extensive, three- to four-hour CPR class to be certified in the practice. The VRFA hopes to provide a class for those students who cannot afford to attend one.

The VRFA was glad to visit the school and remind students of the importance of learning CPR.

“We do this as a job, but everybody you talk to, firefighters in general, it’s a passion. It’s not a job to us. It’s what we are meant to do,” Freed said. “We don’t take accolades or rewards for it, we just want to show up and do our job and try to do the job the best that we can.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Reese Marlenee, a junior at Auburn Mountainview, has recovered from a heart attack last March. She had corrective surgery and takes medication to combat the effects of a rare heart defect. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Reese Marlenee, a junior at Auburn Mountainview, has recovered from a heart attack last March. She had corrective surgery and takes medication to combat the effects of a rare heart defect. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

More in News

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

Courtesy photo
The VRFA’s busy night: two fires, same vacant house

Two fires in one night in the same vacant house in southwest… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, who pushed for broadband funding in Washington schools. (Screenshot from murray.senate.gov)
American Rescue Plan Act funding approved for broadband investments in WA schools

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pushed for the funding, which will benefit several King County school districts.

Courtesy photo
Rollover accident on SR 167 | Fire blotter

Between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
State offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

You can order the tests through the state’s new online portal.

Police say four boys lit fireworks in stadium concession stand

Auburn Police say four boys with fireworks caused a series of small… Continue reading

John Richardson wages war on a patch of invasive Himalayan blackberries threatening to overrun Fenster Nature Park. Photo by Robert Whale, Auburn Reporter
All for salmon: MLK Day project restores habitat

John Richardson waged war Monday afternoon on stubborn Himalayan blackberry bushes threatening… Continue reading

Sen. Mona Das, D-47
Kent Democratic Sen. Mona Das proposes 1% cut in state sales tax

Starting in 2023; Republicans voice support for Senate Bill 5932

File photo
Non-profit sponsors study on how the pandemic impacted arts and culture in Puget Sound

The study helped identify challenges faced by residents and cultural organizations in Washington

Most Read