Learning to Save Lives; LHS Students Trained in Hands Only CPR
Lancaster High School junior, Joseph “JJ” Pesany, knows firsthand that CPR can save a life because it saved his. Now his two-fold mission is to advocate for hands-only CPR training as part of the annual curriculum for high school students and to train more people, especially students, in the technique.
During an electrical accident in 2013, JJ suffered sudden cardiac arrest and was resuscitated by one of the first responders at the scene, Lancaster Police Detective Keith Kerl, who administered CPR and used an automated external defibrillator.
JJ’s experience inspired him to become a certified CPR instructor, and at the end of April, he was one of several trainers who spent two days training nearly 500 Lancaster High School students in the technique of hands only CPR. Other trainers were Detective Kerl and Annette Adamczak, whose daughter died in 2009 after suffering sudden cardiac arrest.
Hands only CPR can be learned in about 40 minutes, which is the time of a class period. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 400 thousand out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the U.S. When administered right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates. Teaching hands-only CPR could save thousands of lives by filling the community with lifesavers.
During training in April, the students used dummies to practice the technique. Hands-only CPR has two easy steps, if you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, first call 911, then push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song ‘Stayin’ Alive.’
Ninth grade students have studied hands-only CPR in their health classes for a number of years. With April’s training of all sophomores in physical education classes, all ninth and tenth graders have now been trained. Training will expand over the next two school years to include hands-only CPR as part of the annual curriculum for all Lancaster High School students.
“I equate the training to learning the ABCs,” said Karen Gembar, a high school physical education teacher. “A child learns ABCs in kindergarten and again in first and second grades. It’s the same with CPR. You don’t just teach it once. You reinforce the training through repetition each year until you know it and it becomes second nature.”
Mrs. Gembar and Mrs. Crystal Schunke attended a conference where Mrs. Adamczak was the keynote speaker. They said they both agreed they wanted to invite her to Lancaster to provide training.
JJ’s advocacy efforts have taken him to Albany to speak to state lawmakers about the importance of the CPR in Schools bill. He has also been a guest speaker at neighboring school districts and worked with Detective Kerl to ask Lancaster schools for training for students.
Currently 21 states have laws in place mandating CPR training as a requirement for high school graduation. On Oct 21, 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure directing the state's commissioner of education to devise curriculum for CPR training. The law (S7096) requires the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to make a recommendation to the Board of Regents requiring high schools to train students in CPR and the use of automated defibrillators (AEDs).