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Melissa Golightly: Be the Beat: Hands-only CPR for Vermont schools

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This commentary is by Melissa Golightly, a registered nurse who holds additional credentials. She lives in Weathersfield with her husband and three children, is director of Adult Inpatient Surgical Services and Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and is active in the Vermont American Heart Association advocacy work.

The recent cardiac arrest of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin raised awareness nationally about the importance of CPR in ensuring survival from cardiac arrest.

The Vermont Legislature should take advantage of that interest and provide funding to help ensure high school students here are trained in hands-only CPR, a requirement passed 10 years ago by that body.

The Legislature enacted Act 151 10 years ago in the hopes of ensuring that all high school students would be trained in hands-only CPR and a new generation of lifesavers would graduate each year. The legislation required compression-only CPR to be taught as part of comprehensive health education.

Lawmakers agreed having students trained in hands-only CPR was critical in addressing low survival rates for cardiac arrest. About three-quarters of cardiac arrests occur in the home. Yet, 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. However, when CPR is performed, it can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

Just a small investment by the Legislature could help schools to implement the hands-only training requirement. And it’s needed. Outcomes are far better when CPR is performed.

As a nurse, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits in early CPR. I have seen the emotional yet joyous moment a patient is woken up and reunited with their family. On the other hand, I have also witnessed the grim scenarios in which CPR was not initiated or there was a significant delay. I have seen lives lost too soon, seen families grieve the loss of a loved one, knowing that a simple intervention of hands-only CPR could have made all the difference in the world.

I will never forget the day when there was a joyous celebration of a patient who had CPR started immediately — he woke up with his family surrounding him. At the same time, an 11-year-old boy and his mother were brought in to say their final goodbyes to a father and husband who did not have bystander CPR done. Watching a child say goodbye to their father while knowing that a simple intervention of hands-only CPR could have made the difference is a scene none of us should ever have to witness, and is a situation no family member should ever be in.

In addition, schools would welcome the funding. A survey conducted of Vermont schools by the American Heart Association found that 68% said hands-only CPR is not being taught at their school and 73% said their school needs resources to help implement this requirement. The American Heart Association estimates that $5 for every high school senior, or approximately $30,000 to fund CPR in school kits for schools, would help them to easily meet this requirement.

As one teacher said, “It would be so much easier if I could just grab the equipment out of my closet and do it.” Others noted that borrowing manikins or asking local rescue organizations to come in and perform the training was a barrier to getting it done.

$30,000 seems to be a minimal investment that could go a long way toward ensuring schools can meet a requirement deemed necessary by the Legislature, but, more importantly, that would ensure the best chance of survival should a Vermonter collapse at home of cardiac arrest.

As Vermonters, this is a simple intervention we can teach for generations to come in order to help ensure the best possible outcomes for our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers.

Read the story on VTDigger here: Melissa Golightly: Be the Beat: Hands-only CPR for Vermont schools .

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