Joe Quigley’s daughter, Olivia, was just 6 years old when, with no prior warning signs, she suffered a cardiac arrest at school. CPR saved her life. Listen to WBZ NewsRadio‘s new report on our efforts to teach this lifesaving skill here.
This is the second in a series of stories WBZ is airing throughout August highlighting the work of the American Heart Association in Boston. It is part of WBZ Cares, a monthly feature written and reported by Shari Small focusing on non-profit organizations in our city.
In this latest piece, Small met with Quigley, a Winthrop resident whose personal struggle with heart disease has led him to become a fierce advocate for making schools safer via CPR training.
“It was completely out of the blue. I’m at home. I have a phone call from her school saying your daughter’s collapsed, you need to get here,” said Quigley.
“I walked in just as the EMTs are using the defibrillator to restart her heart. My 6-year-old daughter, for all intents and purposes, is lying on the gym floor, dead. As a parent, obviously, it’s heart wrenching. You’re completely and utterly destroyed.”
If it wasn’t for two teachers jumping in and performing CPR, Olivia likely would not be here today.
“So the importance of CPR is major, and it’s major in our lives,” Quigley said.
When Olivia was released from the hospital, her father received a phone call from the American Heart Association.
“It’s like having a newborn child. You don’t know what to do. That call changed my life,” he said.
The American Heart Association is pushing for a policy that would make CPR training a high school graduation requirement across the state. While many school districts in Massachusetts have incorporated CPR training into their curriculum, there is no statewide policy requiring them to do so.
“Organizationally, we have a priority of getting it as a high school graduation requirement, but because Massachusetts is a commonwealth, we have to go community by community,” said Jay Blackwell, the executive director of the American Heart Association’s Boston market.
Now 17, Olivia and her dad, with the help of the Heart Association, advocate for school CPR training and defibrillation placement laws.
“The American Heart Association gave us the support that we needed,” said Quigley. “It also gave us the opportunity to meet other parents and it gave us a network, a network of people that had been through what we were going through, and that support alone was worth a million dollars.”