When Joan Eacmen, a teacher at Roxbury’s O’Bryant School of Math & Science collapsed in front of her classroom earlier this spring from cardiac arrest, students and colleagues sprang into action. Their quick thinking and combined efforts to call for help, administer CPR and use the school’s AED are credited with saving Eacmen’s life. Today, as part of National CPR & AED Awareness Week, the American Heart Association recognized the heroic actions of the students and staff at the O’Bryant School with the Heart Saver Hero Award.
Members of the school community including students; Zi Liu, Nakeo Murray, and Railin Castro; school nurse, Carrie Bell Peace and assistant principal Bettie Nolan, are credited with saving Eacmen’s life on March 31, 2014. Recognizing their teacher was in need of immediate medical help after collapsing in the midst of instruction, the students took charge, clearing the area and summoning their school nurse and assistant principal who then performed CPR and used an AED until Boston EMS arrived.
“When we look at what a heart saver is we think of someone who acts quickly in the face of a shocking and traumatic event like a sudden cardiac arrest,” said Allyson Perron, Senior Director of Government Relations at the American Heart Association. “The students and staff who jumped into action and recognized that their teacher needed help are most certainly heart savers and tremendous examples to the greater community of the importance of knowing how to respond in the event of cardiac emergency.”
National CPR & AED Awareness Week, celebrated annually during June 1-7, highlights how lives can be saved by learning CPR and how to use an AED. Each year, more than 420,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby, which if performed immediately, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Unfortunately, statistics show that most Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they’re afraid of hurting the victim.
“We know from both Boston EMS and the physicians at Brigham and Woman’s hospital that if immediate CPR and an AED were not used, the outcome of this situation could have been tragic,” said Perron. “The American Heart Association applauds Boston Public Schools for making a commitment to protect the community by ensuring that AEDs are available at all times in school facilities and that school personnel and students have the opportunity to learn the lifesaving skill of CPR.”
The American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools efforts have contributed to laws requiring students in 16 states across the country, to learn CPR as a graduation requirement. As a result, one million new, qualified lifesavers will be added to our communities each and every year.
Boston Public Schools started their commitment to strengthening the chain of survival in 2002 when the first AED was placed at Boston Latin School and in 2006 when CPR training was introduced to school staff and students. The American Heart Association continues to work with schools across Massachusetts to encourage them to teach students CPR, a move that could save thousands of more lives. In fact, creating the next generation of lifesavers has been made easy with the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools Training Kit, a simple and portable kit that contains everything needed to train 10 students at once in CPR. The process, which includes a 30-minute CPR lesson where students or faculty practice on a manikin while watching skills performed correctly on the DVD, can then be repeated to train a class, a grade – or even an entire school!
During National CPR & AED Awareness Week, the American Heart Association encourages everyone to watch and share the 60-second Hands Only CPR demo video by visiting heart.org/handsonlycpr. Taking one minute to learn the two simple steps of Hands Only CPR could help save a life.