Freshman student dies after collapse on campus

Carlee Switzer

Jenna Kuczkowski

Nearly two weeks ago, a freshman public health major collapsed on the floor of Quaker Steak and Lube in Kent State’s Student Center.

Carlee Switzer, 19, collapsed shortly before 10 p.m. on April 21. Portage County Coroner Dean DePerro pronounced her dead less than one hour later.

Now, her family in Las Vegas is working to raise money through a GoFundMe page to bring her remains home once the final autopsy is finished.

Carlee’s boyfriend — freshman history major Alexander Soules — said the couple was out to dinner that night. After they sat down to eat, Carlee told him she felt dizzy; moments later, Soules said she passed out and fell to the floor.

Soules tried to get Carlee to stand up and yelled that she was diabetic and had stopped breathing. He said people in the restaurant quickly reacted, and a registered nurse that had been present began giving Carlee CPR and performing chest compressions almost immediately until paramedics showed up.

According to Kent Police records, an ambulance was dispatched  at 9:50 p.m. to the Student Center. Approximately 10 minutes later, paramedics were on the scene to start compressions and soon after, put a compression machine on her as they took her to the hospital.

“It’s really all a blur,” Soules said. “I’ve missed the last two weeks of classes, so I’m basically going in for my final study sessions and just hoping it works. Personally, I’m just trying to finish the semester and take it a day at a time.”

The university didn’t release a statement until after The Kent Stater reached out.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Carlee’s family as they grieve her passing. Out of respect for her family, we will provide no further information surrounding her death,” said Eric Mansfield, the executive director of university media relations. “Support to her friends, peers and other students in the Kent State community who are coping with her loss is also available.”

Family members are waiting for the final autopsy report due to the complexities of Carlee’s case, said Starr Switzer, Carlee’s grandmother.

According to preliminary reports by the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office, the cause of death is still unknown. Medical examiners cannot confirm until final results come back in about two weeks.

Leading up to the incident, Starr said Carlee’s health issues had been escalating.

“She had been to the hospital and the ER in Ravenna three times, and they kept sending her home saying she had the flu and there was nothing wrong with her,” Starr said.

Soules said for weeks before the incident, Switzer had been experiencing extreme nausea and a great amount of abdominal pain.

“We were never given a straight answer to what it was … every hospital we went to said, ‘Well we can’t do anything,’ and said they didn’t have a decent knowledge of what it was,” Soules said.

Carlee chose to go to Kent State in part because of Soules, her boyfriend of six years, as well as her desire to study epidemiology.

“She wanted to go into epidemiology so she could try to solve things like diabetes and things like that,” Soules said.

It was only recently that Switzer had switched her major to reflect a love for animals she’s always possessed. 

“She wasn’t enjoying working in health as much as she imagined so that’s when she switched to veterinary studies,” Soules said. “She hoped to someday work at a zoo as a veterinarian.”

Starr said Carlee fought hard to get to Kent State because school was something that never came easy for her, but that she had a drive to succeed.

“Her senior year in high school, she re-took an entire semester of math in two weeks just because she wanted to graduate with honors so bad,” Starr said. “She wanted to set an example for all her sisters. She was determined. She was going to go to college and graduate and show her sisters the right way to do it.”

Switzer graduated high school with honors and as a senior, was an academic commander in the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) program.

“She wanted to go to Kent State for years, and she did it and got there and accomplished her dream,” Starr said, “and for that, I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Jenna Kuczkowski is the general assignment editor, contact her at [email protected].