Saving a life is one of the greatest contributions someone can make to the world. Doing so is never planned and it requires a great deal of composure under enormous pressure.
Last week, 75 students at the Robert W. Carbonaro School in District 24 were trained to be life savers. The sixth-grade students took a basic CPR training course, teaching them how to recognize an emergency and even offer some preliminary treatment.
“If one kid goes out and saves a life, it makes it all worthwhile,” said Faye Egre, the school’s phys. ed. teacher.
Egre said the district used to offer a CPR training course for students many years ago, and she decided it would be a good idea to bring it back. She wrote a proposal which was accepted by school officials, and last Thursday it came to fruition. Later this year, she hopes that the program will make its way to the district’s other two elementary schools.
Professionals from Heartstart Training, which offers American Heart Association-approved courses, spent an hour which each group of students to teach basic life-saving skills. The children learned how to identify when another person is in distress and to call 911. They also were taught how to administer chest compressions, and practiced in pairs on training dummies.
Erik Knapp, director of training for Heartstart, which has four locations including Valley Stream, said teaching children CPR is actually a simple task. “With kids, they’re like a blank slate,” he said. “They absorb it right away.”
Knapp said that early CPR can go a long way toward saving someone’s life. He said that children need to know only a few steps to greatly improve the chances of keeping another person alive.
Heartstart trains about 5,400 people a year, mostly adults. It has more than 90 certified instructors, ranging from teachers to doctors, who work with the company part-time. In addition to programs for schools, first responders and health care professionals, Heartstart often hosts free training programs at community events. “The more people that are trained, the better,” Knapp said.
Students said they learned a lot from the program at Carbonaro last week. Kyle Barry said it is important to stay calm and avoid panicking. “Someone could be choking or someone could be passed out,” he said, “and you’d have to know what to do.”
Tai Spigner said he learned how to perform CPR for the first time. With chest compressions, it’s important to push hard and push fast, he explained. That pumps air into the brain which can help a person regain consciousness.
Spigner said while he hopes he never has to use CPR, he now knows what to do. “The day something like this could happen, you’re prepared,” he said.
Egre said that only about one in five people in a community know basic CPR. At the school, she has to be trained as a phys. ed. teacher along with the nurse, custodians and administrators. All of their training, she explained, is far more extensive and they must be re-certified every two years.
Although the children only learned a fraction of what she knows, Egre said it is enough to make a difference. “I want them to learn the real basics, to keep someone alive as long as they can,” she said. “Every student can learn this.”