Henry Clay senior driven to share CPR technique with classmates
Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Will Freeman has baby-sat and worked at kids’ camps, so when a friend of his younger brother nearly died at a birthday party, the episode left him shaken. It also spurred him to action: teaching hands-only CPR to his entire senior class at Henry Clay High School.
“I want them to be confident if they’re ever in a situation where CPR needs to be done,” Will said. “Most people are scared of hurting someone and don’t do anything. But doing hands-only CPR is much better than just doing nothing. It’s a very easy skill, and it’s been proven to double or triple the survival rate of people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest.”
Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation has two steps: Call 9-1-1 and then push hard and fast on the chest to keep blood pumping until paramedics arrive. The simplified technique requires neither mouth-to-mouth breathing nor certification, according to the American Heart Association.
“You interlock your hands and put them in the center of the chest and do 100 beats per minute while keeping your elbows locked out,” Will explained. The beat of the Bee Gees’ disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” helps maintain the proper rhythm.
All week, the senior English classes rotated through Henry Clay’s theater for Will’s half-hour lessons, which included short videos and individual practice on mannequins. “What he’s doing is something we all need to know,” said Principal Greg Quenon, who lifeguarded as a youth and later was pool manager for Lexington’s division of Parks & Recreation. “You never know when you can reach out and save someone’s life.”
Will’s personal campaign doubled as his senior mentoring project in Henry Clay’s Liberal Arts Academy. As part of his documentation, he asked his classmates to complete a short survey about the training’s effectiveness. They also offered poignant follow-ups, such as what’s the risk of breaking a rib and do people who merely pass out need CPR.
“The students were definitely engaged and asking the right questions,” said the heart association’s Allison Greg, who was Will’s project mentor.
Early on, Will approached her organization with the idea of training as many classmates as possible. After they met with the principal, the proposal evolved into the larger initiative to reach every senior. “It’s been a great experience not only for him but also me,” Greg said of Will’s efforts. “He picked something close to him that he had an emotional connection with, which helped drive him to get this done.”
Will also worked with the heart association’s state advocacy leader, Tonya Chang, because his project coincided with a legislative push to require basic CPR awareness training for all high school students in Kentucky. He even went to Frankfort to lobby for the bill, which has passed the House and moved on to the Senate.
CPR training is already part of the state’s core academic standards for high school health education, and health is required for graduation. However, while CPR instruction is in the curriculum, not all schools provide it. The proposed legislation would remedy that.
Veteran teacher Donna Robinson-Wilson, who covers CPR in the sophomore health class at Henry Clay, is excited about the prospect of all students being comfortable with the hands-only technique before they leave school. “Our department believes in carry-over values and life skills,” she said. “You may not always use calculus, but you can always save a life.”
Did you know?
Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 360,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside a hospital each year, and nearly 90 percent do not survive – mostly because they don’t receive timely CPR. (Source: American Heart Association)