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Ala. Senator uses rescue to promote bill requiring CPR training for high school students

Sen. Arthur Orr performed CPR on Sen. Tim Melson during a trip to South Korea in 2023

By Wes Tomlinson
The Decatur Daily

DECATUR, Ala. — Sen. Arthur Orr personally saw the importance of CPR training and automated external defibrillators after a medical emergency last year, and that led him to co-sponsor a bill in February requiring high school students in every school district to receive both types of training beginning next school year.

While on an economic development trip to South Korea in July 2023, Sen. Tim Melson, R- Florence, suffered from a cardiac event and Orr began performing CPR until another individual obtained an AED.

Orr, R- Decatur, was honored by the Alabama Fire College on Monday for his efforts in keeping Melson stable until paramedics arrived. Orr received the award at Decatur Fire and Rescue Station 5 on Danville Road Southwest. Melson was also in attendance.

Orr said having CPR training is invaluable and with the passage of Senate Bill 59 in April, that training will be available to every school district and an AED will be placed in every school statewide.

Alabama Fire College Executive Director Matt Russell presented Orr with the award and explained the impact CPR can have on victims of cardiac arrest.

“About 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest each year, and only about 10% of those survive those kind of hospital cardiac arrests,” Russell said. “Seventy-three percent of cardiac arrests occur at home and about 16% occur in public settings, so it’s important that we teach CPR. Whether you’re at home or at your place of employment, CPR is important and has a significant impact on people’s lives.”

Russell recounted an incident in 1990 when he performed CPR on an elderly man at a high school football game in Alabama .

“I performed CPR and he lived for six more hours,” Russell said. “Years later, his family found me and told me, ‘You don’t know how much six hours is worth.’”

Orr said had he not performed CPR on Melson, the cardiac event could have been fatal.

“If we didn’t take the initiative and start working immediately, we all knew what the outcome would be,” Orr said.

Orr said educating students about the importance of performing CPR and utilizing AEDs are the goals of the bill, so that if a medical emergency arises they will not hesitate to provide appropriate care.

“The bill requires for CPR and AED training to be in the health care curriculum, so it’s now a requirement to get the training,” Orr said. “They don’t have to get certified, but if at least if they can do chest compressions and know the timing and intervals of what to look for, they’ll be a lot further than they were (before the law passed).”

Orr said he decided to include AED training and purchases in the bill because of their more affordable cost now compared to in the past.

“They’ve since become a lot less costly and are able to be dispersed and disseminated on a much larger basis,” Orr said. “Now they are pretty common, but people don’t know how to use them. If we can expose high schoolers to technology, it’s not difficult to learn how to use it. It will save a life; I’m confident it will.”

Jon Seale, owner of Cardiac Solutions in Birmingham, said his company will distribute AEDs to every school in the state.

“We will also be providing training to staff and students and also performing maintenance on the AEDs,” Seale said.

Decatur Fire Chief Tracy Thornton said recently M&J Precision Inc. on Beltline Road Southwest utilized an AED on an employee who was having a cardiac event and it readjusted their heart rate.

“We go out to cardiac arrests every day,” Thornton said. “We have an AED and that’s what is going to convert the electric rhythm of the heart back to where it needs to be. What the AED does is it shocks the heart and it returns back to that rhythm. Without that AED, we would have no way to do that.”

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