Stayin’ Alive practice

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Paul Kane students learned how to save lives this week with the help of the family of a man who died from a heart attack.

About 55 Paul Kane students learned how to do hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) Monday from educators with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The training was provided by thanks to a $10,000 donation from Kristin and Craig Toms of Sturgeon County.

Kristin said she and her husband Craig made the donation in memory of Craig’s father, Robert, a popular teacher in Newfoundland who died from a heart attack in 2016.

“We just wanted to do something,” Kristin said, noting that they know of many families affected by heart attacks.

“It’s a way of saying, ‘Hey, Robert was here, and even though he’s gone maybe we can do some good.’”

Craig said they thought CPR training was a good cause to support, as Robert taught kids the technique through the Junior Canadian Rangers. They picked St. Albert because Robert’s hometown of Fortneau was so small that it didn’t have the necessary instructors, and Paul Kane because their kids would soon attend that school.

The donation included take-home CPR training kits for the students and an AED unit for the school – the third such unit in the building.

Stayin’ alive

About 40,000 people suffer cardiac arrests in Canada each year, with about 85 per cent of those happening outside of hospitals, the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports. People have a five per cent chance to survive if they go into arrest outside of hospital and 10 per cent if they are also treated with CPR and an AED.

Although about 30 per cent of Canadians know how to do CPR, many won’t step up to perform it out of fear of doing it wrong, said Don Charnaw of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. That’s why they train students in it.

“This is not only a life skill for them (the students) to have, but it can save lives,” Charnaw said.

While regular CPR (compressions plus mouth-to-mouth breathing) is best if you know how to do it, Charnaw said hands-only works just as well, as the most important part to keeping a cardiac patient alive is to keep the blood flowing.

To do hands-only CPR, start by tapping the person’s shoulder and asking them, loudly, if they’re okay, the students heard. If they don’t respond, pick a nearby person and order them to call 911 and get the nearest AED.

Next, start pushing hard and fast in the centre of the patient’s chest with both of your hands on top of each other. Aim for two compressions a minute – just like the beat to “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees – let the chest rise back up between beats, and keep it up until paramedics arrive.

Don’t worry if you crack the patient’s ribs here, Charnaw emphasized.

“If someone’s having a cardiac incident, they’re basically dying or dead … If you help save their life, they’ll be happy to have a broken rib and not be dead.”

AEDs come with detailed audio and visual instructions that walk you through how to use them, the students learned. Once you’ve stuck on the pads, all you have to do is stand back and push the shock button if the device determines that the person needs a zap.

Student Anna Lueck said it was easy to use the AED and do CPR, although the latter gave her sore wrists. Both techniques would help her plans to get into sports medicine.

Student Seth Van Berkel, who had taken formal first-aid training, encouraged others to learn how to do CPR.

“You have a chance of saving someone’s life.”

Visit www.heartandstroke.ca/get-involved/learn-cpr for more on hands-only CPR.

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About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.