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Ann Arbor eighth-graders undergo CPR training

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School trains kids in lifesaving techniques

Students practice CPR techniques (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Students practice CPR techniques (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – Under Michigan state law, all high schoolers must complete CPR training by the time they graduate.

But St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School sees the value in training kids even younger.

This morning, a class of eighth graders underwent CPR, automated external defibrillator and EpiPen administration training.

February being American Heart Month, a group of parents wanted to give the students an opportunity to learn the skills they need to save lives.


Training dummies are laid out in a classroom for the exercise (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

Emergency medical technicians from Huron Valley Ambulance led the session, and emergency room physicians and registered nurses, firefighters, U-M medical students and volunteers from the organization Save MI Heart were present.

Save MI Heart is a nonprofit organization that brings together hospital and EMS providers to improve the rate of cardiac arrest survival by using evidence-based best practices.

“Statewide, it’s about 9% survival, which isn’t far off from the national survival (rate) that’s about 10%" explained Dr. James Pribble, a U-M emergency room physician. "And if you think about 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year, that’s a huge number of people who don’t survive. What Save MI Heart is trying to do is to double that survival by 2020. So go by 8% to 16%. It’s an ambitious goal, but we think one of the biggest keys is early hands-only CPR, early defibrillation, and early accessing of 911."

Pribble said that there is great value in teaching young people the lifesaving technique. 


An EMT demonstrates how to administer CPR (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

"We’re hopeful that young people, once they get engaged and use hands-on CPR, can teach their parents or their grandparents and pass that on," he said.

Jennifer Fowler, a registered nurse and volunteer at Save MI Heart, said she's seen too many cases in which people didn't know how to react in those critical moments.

"In my nursing career, I met too many people that didn’t do anything with their loved one who subsequently did not survive a cardiac arrest because they were afraid or they were afraid they’d hurt them. So teaching hands-only CPR to the young is (important) to make it their way of life," she said.

A unique addition to the session was teaching the kids how to administer EpiPens. It is not a part of typical CPR training, but the kids' English teacher, Mitra Dunbar, insisted it be part of the course.


Students learn how to administer EpiPens (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

"We have an increasing number of kids with allergies," said Dunbar. "I believe in the eighth-grade class, out of 42, we have five that self-carry epinephrine."

“I actually have a daughter who has an anaphylactic peanut allergy, and I’ve been very interested in training as many people as possible," she explained. "I just want her surrounded. And for these kids, too. They could be at a baseball game, they could be out at the park and somebody who didn’t know they were allergic to bees could be stung. The chances they could encounter the need for an EpiPen increase daily. I think the most recent statistic is 1 child out of every 10, or 2 in every classroom."

For eigth-grader Keira Gunnerson, who has nut allergies, the course hits close to home.

“I think the experience is really great. We could possibly save someone’s life and help others learn how to save people’s lives -- especially for people with allergies. Even if they don’t carry (an EpiPen), they are always at risk for possible anaphylactic shock."


Students practice administering CPR and using an AED (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

Overall, the exercise was a success. The kids were engaged and enjoyed taking turns performing CPR on medical-grade dummies -- something that made their teacher very proud.

"I’m seeing them soak it up," said Dunbar. "I’m seeing specific kids making connections that they know this could be one of their classmates. They're asking a lot of questions; they really are like sponges. And they’ve really risen to the occasion. We’re very lucky to have this today."



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