Requiring CPR instruction can save lives

Nathan on EducationWhy are Jamie LaLonde, Natasha Fleischman and Dale Wakasugi supporting a bill that would require Minnesota’s public schools to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? For the best possible reasons: It saved their lives.

Both the Minnesota House and Senate are considering bills that would require all Minnesota Public Schools to teach CPR to students grades 7-12. Chief authors Republicans Sen. Dan Hall and Rep. Mary Holberg have bipartisan support. In recent testimony, a Minnesota School Boards Association representative expressed reasonable concerns about adding a new mandate when budgets are challenged.

However, what’s a higher priority than teaching young people how to save lives? Testimony suggested that about half of Minnesota’s school districts do and half don’t teach CPR. So I hope the bill passes.

Twenty-year-old Jamie LaLonde testified that she was working at the Mall of America when, “I had a sudden cardiac arrest … I was 18 years old. I’m helping the American Heart Association (AHA) with this bill because the only reason I’m alive today is because someone that was trained in CPR made it to the scene within five minutes.”

“Although I’m very lucky, I still can’t help but think that none of the 16-20 year olds around me that were working with me knew to start CPR. Sudden Cardiac Arrest can happen to anyone, even young people and I think it’s important we prepare people as best we can so that if they ever do get the chance to save a life they can,” she said. LaLonde is going to school at Inver Hills Community College to become a paramedic.

Stillwater School Board member Natasha Fleischman also recently testified about the bill. She wrote, “CPR saved my life. I was a 33-year-old mother of two in 2002 when my heart stopped for the first time (with no known heart condition). I was working at the St. Paul Public Schools. I was on first floor and the director of safety and security, Will Waterkamp, ran down from the fourth floor to perform CPR on me. After the St. Paul Fire Department defibrillated me five times, I was taken to Regions Hospital, diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and received an implantable defibrillator (ICD).”

She said, “I have worked with the AHA and the Go Red campaign, as well as WomenHeart: the National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease (www.wom and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association to build knowledge and skills that save lives … When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, which is often the case when a high school athlete collapses on the field, every minute counts. This legislation is meant to have every high school student learn CPR before graduating and have the ability to save the lives of family members or friends.”

Fleischman said, “In Stillwater, we already teach CPR in our required health classes. When I conducted a study for the AHA using the CPR anytime kit, we wanted to compare two schools, one that taught traditional CPR and one that only had a 30-minute course with the anytime kit. We taught kids to do CPR in 30 minutes. And the preliminary data showed that their compressions were more consistently effective than those of students in a four-hour traditional CPR class. Pretty impressive what can be accomplished.”

Finally, Dale Wakasugi said, “Since my first arrest in December 2007, I have made a commitment to myself to help others by ‘paying it forward.’ To help place as many AEDs in as many public places as possible and to help raise awareness of the importance of knowing CPR and how to use an AED … I want to help high school students learn CPR and how to use an AED, since my key rescuer was a high school student who just learned CPR and how to use an AED in health class three weeks prior to my event.”

Joe Nathan, former public school teacher, administrator, PTA president and parent of three public school graduates now directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. Reactions are welcome, via e-mail at [email protected].