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Guest Column: Do your part to help save lives

Guest Column: Do your part to help save lives

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Coordinated community action can save lives! There are 300,000 Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) deaths in the United States each year according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, which reports: “SCA is a major public health crisis. Awareness of SCA and bystander assistance is crucial to increasing survival rates.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports 2,000 deaths per year among patients under the age of 25. Although the numbers are substantially lower in children, the impact is devastating to families and community. Survival rates are dramatically increased through CPR and/or shocks administered through proper use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

There are multiple reasons for SCA, among them: genetic predisposition, underlying structural abnormalities, the increase in adult and childhood obesity and poor lifestyle choices. A growing concern of the American Academy of Pediatrics and general medical community is the increase in caffeine use in both adults and adolescents; most notably energy drink consumption.

Educating an army of new first responders is the key to saving lives. Washington’s legislators recognized this eneed by passing SHB 1556 on May 8, 2013. It states by the year 2017, training in CPR, as well as executing the use of an AED, will be a high school graduation requirement.

Educational responsibility does not lie in the school districts alone. For the community and its citizens to experience the full benefit of educating additional first responders, it must be a joint effort. Educating the public to the proper application of CPR is a major step in saving lives. Access to an AED in the schools, workplace, and community is paramount in decreasing the tragedy of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. An AED requires minimal training to operate, but can make the difference between life or death.

Sometimes action requires thinking outside of the box; examining different opportunities. Lisa Mustion, owner and educator at Family House Academy in Kelso, believes in the “empowerment of education.” Hearing of the need for CPR training, she began with her private school, teaching her students the value of community service.

Together the students and staff committed to fundraising to help Spencer’s HeartStrong Foundation, a foundation founded by Rich and Spencer Best to help in the education and awareness of SCA. The foundation was established when Spencer collapsed on the Mark Morris basketball floor and none of his teammates knew what to do. Fortunately. through the quick actions of his coaches and bystanders (along with a frantic 911 call), Spencer received CPR and shocks from an AED. Spencer Best is a survivor of SCA. The $1,000 donation from the Family House Academy’s staff and students was the first large donation to the foundation.

Lisa then took the vision one step farther and partnered with Lifeworks in Longview and Spencer’s HeartStrong Foundation of Longview to advance the vision of educating more first responders. In a collaborative group effort, they applied and were awarded a grant for $30,000 from the Healthcare Foundation. The goal for this year is to train 12 groups (one per month). The individuals will receive certification in CPR and the use of an AED. Each group at completion will also be awarded an AED machine for use at its workplace or school.

The educational process has begun. Carol Wegdahl, a paramedic for Cathlamet Fire Department and CPR trainer for Peace Health, was enlisted to help in the training as well as both Rick and Spencer Best, who share their frightening and heroic story of Spencer’s survival.

Mustion believes in “empowering students to help other students.” The community service within Family House Academy not only includes students helping with the training sessions, but raising money to support the cause. An application from any school, community group, or business for the free training is available through Family House Academy, where they will be carefully screened to maximize training. The vision is to increase the educational opportunities to double next year.

You can make a difference in your community individually or through your social network, and help to save lives! Are there AEDs available in your school or workplace? What role can you play to help insure a safer environment for your students and community?

Joan Tolby lives in Longview.

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