A Kennewick man who has been teaching kids for 60 years throughout Eastern Washington is hospitalized in very serious condition after emergency surgery on New Year's Day, his son said Monday.
Don Anderson, superintendent of Star School District in rural Franklin County, suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, said his son, Kennewick lawyer Tim Anderson.
The 81-year-old is in Kennewick General Hospital's intensive care unit. As of late Monday afternoon, Anderson was on a ventilator under sedation but had grasped his son's hand and opened his eyes when a specialist yelled his name.
"We're really hoping that his kidneys keep working and his heart keeps pumping," his son said. "It's very serious and the doctors are saying, 'You're not out of the woods yet.' The first 72 hours are critical, and we will be at 48 hours about 7 o'clock tonight."
Tim Anderson added that his father is doing well, "but you want to be sure people are realistic about that thing too."
Don Anderson spent 20 years at the helm of the Kennewick School District, retiring in 1989. He was named Kennewick Man of the Year in 1984, and was voted one of the top educators in the nation by a national education magazine.
The Spokane area native also has taught or been administrator at Kettle Falls, LaCrosse, Chewelah, Colville and Othello.
After leaving the Kennewick district, he was hired on an interim basis in Pasco when their business manager fell ill, then served three years as superintendent of the Columbia School District in Burbank.
Anderson followed that by becoming superintendent for the tiny Star district. He continues to live in Kennewick with his wife of 60 years, Ruth, and runs the district from his computer when he doesn't make the drive to the one-room schoolhouse on the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway.
"I told the doctors, you don't realize that you're working on a guy that's kind of a legend around here," Tim Anderson said of his father.
Don Anderson had just finished lunch and was working on his taxes Saturday afternoon when he started to complain of a backache, said his son. He took some ibuprofen and went to bed for 11/2 hours, then was taken to Kennewick General Hospital after he awoke still feeling ill.
Anderson passed out in a chair in the emergency room, and that's when hospital staff discovered an aneurysm in the main artery that travels from the heart to the legs, his son said.
The walls of that aorta can weaken when "guys like dad have lived a life of fairly high stress," Tim Anderson said. "We about lost him."
The hospital pulled together a surgical team and got Anderson into the operating room by about 7:30-8 p.m. Saturday.
"Dad was joking until they rolled him into surgery, even though he was in a lot of pain," his son said.
Tim Anderson said since notifying the Kennewick First United Methodist Church family of his father's condition through an e-mail Sunday and asking for prayers of healing, "we've gotten a lot of community outpouring. It's really touching."
Don Anderson cannot have visitors in the hospital at this time.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org