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POV: CPR: A simple way to save a life

The author is a Fellow of American College of Emergency Physicians, regional EMS medical director and an associate professor of emergency medicine at Albany Medical College.

Jim, Michelle, Kelly, Lee, Joey... a growing list of people who suffered sudden cardiac arrest and survived. These individuals are alive today, because of the efforts of their loved ones, friends or strangers who knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and were able to help. Can you help? Can your children help you?

For the past several years, I have been working closely with the American Heart Association to promote legislation that would ensure that every high school student in New York State is trained in CPR. This training would require less than 30 minutes of teaching time and could be easily incorporated into Health class. By training tens of thousands of potential rescuers each year, one or two high school class periods have the potential to save the lives of countless New Yorkers.

How often does sudden cardiac arrest occur? Across the United States, more than 1,000 individuals suffer sudden cardiac arrest daily. How many of these individuals survive? Less than 100. As an Emergency Department physician, my hope is that if more people are able to recognize a cardiac arrest and initiate CPR, there will be more survivors. Today, there are significantly more survivors than 10 years ago. Together, we have the opportunity to save even more lives tomorrow.

This CPR in the Schools bill currently sits before our New York State representatives. Some have voiced concern that it may scar a child emotionally by performing CPR to try to save a life. I think we should give our children more credit. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for anyone to helplessly watch a parent or loved one lay in cardiac arrest and have no idea how to help. By empowering our youth with knowledge and basic CPR training, we can help them save lives. It is our duty to provide our high school students with the skills they need to help save the life of a family member or friend in sudden cardiac arrest. Which would be worse for our children? To try and help save a loved one in cardiac arrest or to stand by helplessly as the chances of a loved one’s survival fade away even as the sirens get closer?

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