American Heart Association Wants CPR Taught In Schools
Life changed forever for Avery Shappley on a cold, beautiful February afternoon in 2012. Avery, a high school freshman in Corinth, Miss. was trying out for the tennis team. She was cleared for tryouts through her athletic physical and had been running lines. Corinth High School coach Chris Coleman was excited to have his annual tennis team tryouts when he noticed that Avery began to lose her balance. He ran over to help break her fall and as she collapsed she went into cardiac arrest.
Luckily, Coach Coleman is trained in CPR, and reacted immediately. He instructed his assistant coach to call 9-1-1, and Coleman delivered CPR to Avery for approximately 15 minutes. He told the assistant coach he was not stopping until the paramedics arrived. Once the paramedics were on the scene, they had to use an AED to revive Avery before taking her to the hospital.
Unfortunately, Avery’s story is not the norm. Because most sudden cardiac arrest victims do not receive CPR within a few precious minutes, the survival rate is a dismal 10.4 percent nationwide. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates.
This is why the American Heart Association is urging the Mississippi State Legislature to add CPR training to the curriculum of schools’ health education classes.Just this week, Senator Chris Massey and Representative Michael Evans indicated that they’d be signing on as the bill authors and champions for creating the next generation of lifesavers.
“If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) arrive,” said Lisa Valadie, Community Educator/Paramedic with the Madison Fire Department.“We want to create a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate. In less than the time it takes to watch a TV sitcom, we can give students the skills they need to help save a person’s life with CPR. Teaching students CPR will add lifesavers to our community, year after year, and everyone benefits.”
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time. Sudden cardiac arrest is most often caused by a heart attack, but it can also be caused by trauma, an overdose or drowning. In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating, blood stops circulating, oxygen stops flowing to the brain, and the victim stops breathing. In fact, nearly 424,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year.
In Avery’s case, the high school student learned that she had a serious heart condition called Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA). ALCAPA is a very rare heart defect that occurs as a result of the left coronary artery forming abnormally. Instead of connecting to the aorta, as in a normal heart, it connects to the pulmonary artery. Avery had to undergo several surgeries and she has made a full recovery.
“CPR is the lifesaving solution,” Valadie said. “Many people are alive today because individuals trained in CPR—including youth and adults who received that training in school—gave someone CPR until EMTs arrived. We need to create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend and complete stranger is trained in CPR at school and is prepared to save lives.”
This life-changing event and its successful outcome is one of the many reasons Avery decided to dedicate her personal time as a volunteer for the American Heart Association. She has set up a CPR initiative to share her story and encourage others to be trained in CPR.
“I believe that CPR is very important because it does save lives.It saved mine,” said Avery.“The need for people around me to know CPR was something that was vital to my survival, but no one knew that.I was just lucky to collapse when and where I did.”
Avery’s high school is getting on board.Corinth High School Principal, Russ Elam is in support of having CPR taught in high school.
I am totally in support of having CPR taught in schools,” said Elam.“As a matter of fact, all of our teachers and coaches are already taught in the fall. If someone has to administer CPR, it’s most likely going to be a friend or family member.”