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McMath teachers learn potentially life-saving cardiac arrest aid techniques

McMath teacher Kristina Boone performs CPR on a dummy
As its name implies, sudden cardiac arrest can occur without warning to people of all ages. Preparing for such a deadly event is difficult, but a recent training event helped prepare McMath Middle School teachers with basic CPR training.

Prior to the start of school, McMath teachers learned about sudden cardiac arrest through a free program provided by Cook Children’s Medical Center of Fort Worth called Project Adam – Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory. The program is provided for free to schools in an effort to help teachers who may not have any experience with health emergencies combat instances of cardiac arrest.

“This class is all about what to do if you find an unconscious person – either a student or an adult,” said Kristi Scholl, McMath school nurse. “The course isn’t designed to make our teachers fully CPR certified, but it does give them the basic information on what to do if a person goes into cardiac arrest and how they can help that person’s chances of survival.”

During the training, McMath teachers learned information about cardiac arrest and received hands-on introductory CPR training on dummies as well as a demonstration of how to use the school’s automated external defibrillator, or AED.

The training is important, Mrs. Scholl said, because a school nurse can’t be at every campus event. Coaches are required to be CPR certified, though cardiac arrest incidents aren’t limited to athletic-related activities.

“Even if our teachers aren’t CPR certified, they can still do CPR to someone in need, which is why we wanted them to have this introductory course,” Mrs. Scholl said. “Providing CPR and using an AED on someone who’s unconscious can significantly increase their chances of survival.”

McMath teachers now have CPR and AED training to potentially help a student or staff member in need

Laura Friend, the Project ADAM coordinator at Cook Children’s Medical Center of Fort Worth, told McMath teachers that cardiac arrest is the most common cause of death of students at schools and can happen to children who otherwise appear perfectly healthy. Her daughter Sarah was a student who appeared healthy but died from cardiac arrest in 2004, with the cause of the incident later determined as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of her heart muscle. Sarah received no AED assistance when her cardiac arrest occurred.

By better preparing teachers to use AEDs, Mrs. Friend said hundreds of lives could be saved each year.

“The best part about AEDs like the one [McMath] has is that they guide you through the process,” she said. “They also won’t provide a shock to anyone who doesn’t need it. AEDs only work if they’re needed, and I’ve never heard of one not working on someone who needs it.”

While Project ADAM focused on cardiac arrest aid techniques, Mrs. Friend also stressed that heart screenings can help prevent some incidents from even occurring. The University Interscholastic League, the governing body for most extracurricular competitions provided by public schools in Texas, doesn’t require heart screenings, meaning most middle and high school athletes in the state don’t receive them.

After learning about a grant that can pay for the cost of a school’s athletes to receive heart screenings, however, McMath’s athletic department applied for and received funding to have all its athletes tested.

“I’m extremely proud of Mrs. Scholl for initiating this project and putting our school at the forefront of this important issue,” said Principal Debbie Nobles. “Anything we can do to improve the safety of our students is something worth going the extra mile for.”