Fla. students learn hands-only CPR

Since the American Heart Association taught teachers about hands-only CPR last month, 4,000 students in a Florida school district have learned how to administer the aid


By Emily Miller
The Sun Sentinel 

PALM BEACH, Fla. — More Palm Beach County students are getting schooled in CPR — a skill teachers hope their students will take to heart.

Last month, the American Heart Association taught teachers from around the county about hands-only CPR. Since then, 4,000 students in nine middle and high schools have learned how to administer the aid, said Eric Stern, who oversees physical education for the district.

"It's a great start," Stern said. "We would love to see it spread."

Boca Raton Community Middle School just completed training on the largest scale, with about 1,200 physical education and health students participating in 50-minute sessions taught over three days, Stern said.

Boca Raton's Fire Rescue joined in the training.

"It's important because they are in a community of people who also can be involved in cardiac arrest," said Fire Rescue Lt. Tony Armijo, who helped teach the students. "We're finding cardiac arrest in very young people due to congenial heart defects that might have been overlooked."

The hands-only CPR method requires just two steps: call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

"Part of the anxiety of doing CPR is the mouth-to-mouth because of the fear of communicable diseases," Armijo said. "Now, with it being only hands-on, it takes out the component of having to breathe into someone, and it concentrates solely on the chest compressions."

Armijo said research shows the two things that actually work in CPR are fast and hard compressions and Automated External Defibrillators. He said as long as students are able to compress the chest an adequate depth and rate, they can save lives.

In fact, since the incorporation of hands-only CPR training in the Boca Raton community, the fire department's resuscitation rates have improved dramatically, said Armijo, who has been with the fire department since 1990. This is because doing chest compressions during the roughly six minutes it takes emergency responders to arrive helps sustain brain, heart and lung tissue, Armijo said.

"It gives the victim time, it gives us time," he said. "Our advanced life support interventions will work better than if no one had done anything at all."

During the training, students watched an informational video to learn the terminology and proper techniques. Then, they were divided into small groups to practice on mannequins.

Students from the school's Premedical Academy, who are certified in CPR, oversaw the small groups. On the second day of training, students also learned the Heimlich maneuver.

"You can mark my words — by the end of this year, we're going to be hearing success stories," said Tania Martinez, head of the school's Premedical Academy. "These kids are going to be saving their family members."

Martinez said over the years, her students have shared stories of using their training. One student, for example, used the Heimlich maneuver to save her mother who had been choking on shrimp.

"It's bound to happen," Armijo said. "You train 1,200 students — something is going to happen when they're around."

Eighth-grader Claire Cutler, 14, said the most surprising part of the training was learning the different CPR techniques for adults and infants.

"I think it's really good that we're learning it because if there was an emergency, we'd know how to handle it," she said.

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