Eighth-graders pledge to teach friends and family hands-only CPR

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - TVF&R firefighter Jason Maurer with Station 50 on Southwest Walnut Street demonstrates proper hands-only CPR technique during a demonstration at Fowler Middle School.If everything goes according to plan, by this summer more than 1,000 people in Tigard will be trained in CPR and ready to help in cardiac arrest emergencies. And, the community will have eighth-graders at Fowler Middle School to thank.

Firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue spent Friday training 150 eighth-graders in hands-only CPR. They are now charged with the task of training at least five friends and family the life-saving skill.

“You brought your disco shoes today right?” asked Amber Cross, a deputy fire marshal with the district.

With the Bee Gees’ 1977 song “Stayin’ Alive” blasting in the background, students used mannequins to practice CPR, pumping the dummies’ chests in time to the music.

Firefighters from Station 50 on Southwest Walnut Street were on hand to give pointers as students practiced.

“Most likely, the life that you are going to save is going to be someone that you know, and someone that you love,” Cross said.

The fire district offers CPR training to middle school students across the area.

Firefighters have done similar trainings in Beaverton schools, but Friday’s session marked the first time the agency partnered with the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

About half of the school’s eighth-graders received the training, with other training sessions planned for this spring.

But Cross said she’d like to see all three of Tigard-Tualatin’s middle schools join the effort to potentially save lives.

“We are trying to get the word out about the program,” Cross said after the training session. “We are hoping this will be a good way for the program to take off.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Fowler Middle School eighth-grader Henry Winterboure practices hands-only CPR during a training session with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue on Friday. The school is the first in Tigard-Tualatin to have every eighth-grade student learn the life-saving skill.

Why learn CPR?

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, but nearly three in four Americans aren’t trained in any kind of CPR, Cross said.

“But those numbers are changing,” Cross told students. “We are training you today, and you are going to help us out and make these numbers change for us.”

When a person goes into cardiac arrest, their chance of survival decreases by about 10 percent every minute, Cross said.

On average, it takes six to 10 minutes for firefighters to get to a cardiac arrest call, so crews are working on borrowed time, she added. But if bystanders can start hands-only CPR before emergency responders arrive, a patient’s chances of survival greatly improve.

Hands-only CPR helps blood to flow during the crucial few minutes after a heart attack, Cross said. “When CPR is provided right away, it doubles or triples a cardiac victim’s survival rate,” said TVF&R spokeswoman Lyssa Vattimo.

Students also learned about TVF&R’s mobile app, PulsePoint, which notifies CPR-trained people of a nearby cardiac arrest incident.

The program guides people to the scene of a heart attack, where they can jump into action while emergency responders are on their way.

“You’d rather have a cracked rib than a kick in the bucket,” Cross said, quoting an educational video the students watched. by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Fowler Middle School health teacher Cindy Pellicci gives pointers to students during a hands-only CPR demonstration from TVF&R. Students in the school will teach five friends and family members how to perform CPR by the end of the year.

Lives already saved

The secret to the program’s success is the requirement that students train friends and family members, said health teacher Cindy Pellicci.

“One of the main things I try to accomplish is not only teaching the kids here in my classroom, but also reaching out into the community,” she said. “Today, we’ll teach about 150 students, so if you think about them each reaching out to five different friends or family members, that’s 750 people in our community who are trained by our school, that’s pretty awesome.”

The program has already paid for itself, Vattimo said.

Students at Valley Catholic School in Beaverton are credited with saving two people after they were taught hands-only CPR last year.

“The kids taught someone who was able to save someone’s life,” Vattimo said. “So we know that it works.”

Firefighters will return to the school in the coming months to teach the remaining Fowler eighth-graders.

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