Albany, New York – With a standing room only crowd of American Heart Association volunteer advocates in attendance, the New York State Board of Regents on Thursday approved a regulation requiring Hands-Only CPR training in high school, making New York the 26th state to do so. More than 1.5 million students will be trained each year in the 26 states, including more than 190,000 high school graduates annually in NYS. This was the final step in a 15-year American Heart Association grassroots effort to get CPR training in high schools in New York State.
“I am truly ecstatic knowing that kids in New York State will all have the opportunity to learn lifesaving CPR skills!” said Linda Cotter-Forbes of Rhinebeck, “This will empower so many young people across our state!”
Her daughter Kaitlin was 15 years old in 2005 when she suffered sudden cardiac arrest during a high school softball game. She is alive today, attending Hunter College, because bystanders started CPR and used AED, or automatic external defibrillator quickly to revive her. She and her mother supported lobbying efforts for the law over the years.
Two other Hudson Valley teens who lobbied in support of the legislation are also alive today because of CPR, and both are college students.
“I am so excited that the Board of Regents passed the bill! Knowing that every student needs to know Hands-Only CPR is very meaningful to me because CPR saved my life,” said Katarina Weigel of Yorktown, a student at Pace University. She suffered sudden cardiac arrest during a high school volleyball practice in 2010. She’s alive because her coaches knew CPR and used an AED.
“I’m so pleased that our students will all graduate with a baseline knowledge of CPR so they are able to help someone in the event of an emergency. This training will create future generations of life savers,” said AHA volunteer advocate Veronica Barker, formerly of Washingtonville, who used CPR to save her daughter, Brianna’s life after she collapsed at home after a high school dance. Brianna is now a freshman at Penn State. “My daughter might not be here today if I hadn’t learned CPR in high school. This basic life-saving skill is perhaps the most important thing that a student can learn.”
But for the four mothers in attendance who lost their children to cardiac arrest, it was a bittersweet moment. All four have lobbied for the CPR training, as well as formed foundations that have increased the awareness of sudden cardiac arrest – and helped save lives.
“We are so grateful that the New York Regents saw how important this is,” said Melinda Murray of Queens. She lost her son Dominic in 2009 to cardiac arrest, “We are so pleased that the journey has ended in this positive, life-affirming way. After 15 years of advocacy, beginning Oct. 7, Hands-Only CPR will be taught in New York’s schools.”
Since the passage of Louis’ Law in 2002, which called for the placement of AEDs in public places, 87 lives have been saved in New York,” said Karen Acompora of Northport, whose son died after being struck by a ball in the chest, “Nothing replaces our son Louis, who died of commotio cordis when he was 14, but the CPR in Schools Law honors his short life by giving others a chance at life.”
Suzy McCarthy of Evans, who lost her 5-year old daughter, Madison to cardiac arrest 14 years ago, also worked on Louis’ Law, then turned her attention to CPR in Schools. AHA advocate Annette Adamczak of Akron, has trained 18,000 students in Hands-Only CPR since her 14-year old daughter, Emily Adamczak died six years ago.
“The ripple effects of this action will be felt across the state, as we make a difference in the lives of our children,” Adamczak said. “Together, where hands and hearts meet, a life can be saved; one heartbeat at a time.”
Sudden cardiac arrest survivors also attended the Board of Regents meeting, including 15-year-old Joe Mendrick of Colonie, who was 11 when a baseball hit him in the chest and stopped his heart, and Joel Stashenko, also of Colonie, whose son Casey – who had learned CPR in his school – revived him.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the CPR in Schools bill, sponsored by then-Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach and then-Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, into law in October of 2014. The law called on the state Department of Education to ask the Regents for a recommendation on the instruction of CPR in Schools. The Regents recommended that it be included in the curriculum, and directed the Department to draft the rule for public comment. The Board of Regents gave the final stamp of approval to the measure during their meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Volunteers from around the state advocated for the legislation through the American Heart Association’s online grassroots network at www.yourethecure.org . With New York becoming the 26th state to provide CPR training in schools, it means that 1.5 millionstudents will be trained each year nationally.
Additional photos from Albany are available at www.facebook.com/americanheartnewyork