In high schools throughout the state, students are getting lessons in cardiopulmonary resuscitation thanks to a new law.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1556 in May, requiring CPR to be taught during health classes starting this school year.
“The Legislature intends to create a generation of lifesavers by putting cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills in the hands of all high school graduates and providing schools with a flexible framework to prepare for an emergency,” the language in the bill reads.
At Freeman High School this week, freshmen in Scott Carolan’s health and fitness class received training from firefighters at Fire District 8 in Valleyford.
Firefighters Paul Leforgee, Shane Jenkins and David Bair brought in dummies and automated external defibrillators the students could use to practice.
Leforgee asked them what four things each of them needed to do while performing CPR on a patient. They had the answers: 100 compressions a minute, compressing the chest by 2 inches, letting the chest recoil and minimal interruptions of compressions.
He then showed a video that explained ventricular fibrillation, which calls for the defibrillator.
The AED won’t work if the patient is not in ventricular fibrillation.
Freeman School District has one AED in each of its schools. They were received through Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center’s Project Adam.
The students broke into groups to practice, simulating a cardiac emergency and what it would be like to perform CPR while waiting for help to arrive.
“We’re going to go for about six or eight minutes,” Leforgee told them.
Carolan said Fire District 8 approached the school in organizing these classes.
“The more professionals we get the better,” Carolan said. In the coming years, Carolan would like to expand the training to include first aid.
While the students are learning these basic steps in lifesaving, they won’t be CPR certified, which is a much more intensive process.
Jenkins said they no longer teach mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“The heart pumping is the key to everything,” he said. “If we focus on compressions, people are going to be more likely to intervene.”
Those compressions can help keep the heart primed for paramedics to come in and do advanced interventions.
Ninth-grader Bedo Miller said the most important thing she had learned in the two days of training is to “call 911 right away.”
“I didn’t know what an AED was,” said Cameron Schwenk, another ninth-grader. “I thought it was just a box.”
Schwenk said he learned a lot over the two days.
During the group practice, seven or eight students gathered around each dummy with an AED. One of them shook the dummy and asked if they were all right before turning to a friend and asking them to call for help.
One started chest compressions while another opened the AED and placed the sticky pads on the dummy, one on the right near the collarbone and one on the left side. The AED, which has a recorded voice to guide users through the process, told everyone to get back from the patient while it scanned the patient for ventricular fibrillation. It then charged up and reminded everyone to not touch the patient. It delivered a shock before the student began chest compressions again.
Leforgee told the students it was important to switch who was delivering the compressions.
“The more you can switch out the CPR, the higher quality it’s going to be,” he told them.