Let’s Create a Generation of Lifesavers: Winthrop Family Encourages Local School Communities to Teach CPR to Students

Olivia Quigley, preparing to start in the fashion show at the 2011 Boston Go Red For Women Luncheon.
Olivia Quigley, preparing to start in the fashion show at the 2011 Boston Go Red For Women Luncheon.

Five years ago this week, Olivia Quigley collapsed in her elementary school gym class from sudden cardiac arrest, a fluke incident that nearly cost her life. Fortunately for Olivia, her two gym teachers performed CPR immediately. Olivia has since made a strong recovery and she and her father, Joe, are now teaming up with the American Heart Association to encourage all local schools to teach students CPR before they graduate – a move the Quigleys believe could help save more lives like Olivia’s someday.

“CPR is a life skill that our children need to take with them from school into the rest of their lives,” said Quigley. “Learning CPR is a simple skill that I know helped save my daughter’s life. If someone doesn’t provide CPR or defibrillation within a few precious minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest, almost 90 percent of the victims die. We have the power to do something about that deadly statistic—and to prepare young adults to save lives,” he said.

Olivia’s sudden cardiac arrest was just one of approximately 383,000 that occur outside a hospital each year. Olivia’s experience, however, was quite atypical—because she happened to be surrounded by teachers who knew CPR could save her life.

Because most sudden cardiac arrest victims do not receive CPR within a few precious minutes, the survival rate is a dismal 11 percent nationwide. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates.

“If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) arrive,” said Allyson Perron, Sr. Director of Government Relations with the American Heart Association. “We are creating a generation of lifesavers by encouraging students to 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.

“CPR is the lifesaving solution,” said Perron. “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.”

Currently, 12 states throughout the country, including Rhode Island and Vermont, teach CPR as a graduation requirement by working it into existing classes, investing 30 minutes in today’s students, who are then ready to become tomorrow’s lifesavers. Studies have shown that students are capable of learning and effectively performing CPR.

We’re making it easy to help create the next generation of lifesavers with the CPR in Schools Training Kit. The simply and portable kit contains everything needed to train 10 students at once in CPR.  The process, which includes a 30-minute CPR lesson where students or faculty practice on a mankin while watching skills performed correctly on the DVD, can then be repeated to train a class, a grade – or even an entire school!  To join the American Heart Association’s work to teach students in your school district CPR visit heart.org/CPRinschools or contact Allyson Perron at 781- 373-4522.

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