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Michigan students learning CPR to meet new state requirement

Port Huron Schools going beyond required training

PORT HURON, Mich. – The seventh-graders at Fort Gratiot Middle School are getting a lesson their instructor hopes they'll never forget.

Earlier this year, Michigan joined 33 other states that require students to learn CPR before graduating from high school. 

This fall, the law took effect, so Local 4 wanted to check in and see how districts are meeting the requirement.

There's no question CPR is a critical skill. According to the American Heart Association, if you suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, your odds of surviving are about 10 percent or less. Getting immediate CPR can triple those odds.

"I think everyone should have some exposure to CPR education because we know that if you're trained, you're more apt to want to help someone," said CPR instructor Kelly DiNardo, a registered nurse and the community coordinator for McLaren Port Huron.

It's estimated that this new requirement will create an additional 100,000 potential lifesavers in Michigan every year.

On this day, DiNardo was training 120 students.

"Are you guys ready to get started? Anybody have any experience with CPR?" she asked.

The lesson is more challenging than many students expected, and for one of them, more emotional.

Ronald Donaghy, 12, watched his mother save his baby sister's life by doing CPR. The class brings back memories of that terrifying day.

"My mom went in the ambulance, and I was just praying to God that my sister would make it out," Donaghy said. "If she'd died, I don't know what I'd do."

Donaghy's sister survived, and it's stories like his that encouraged Michigan lawmakers to pass the new CPR requirement.

Many school districts are getting creative to fund the training. At Port Huron Schools, it's a team effort.

"We've partnered with our local medical community, with McLaren of Port Huron and the Thumb Area Dental Society," superintendent Jamie Cain said. "The dental society has donated $4,000 plus to provide a permanent mannequin for all three of our middle schools."

The gift will allow students training beyond what's required. It's an investment in future lifesavers.

"Every child needs to learn something about how to save someone else's life, not just worry about themselves," said Dr. Randa Jundi-Samman, a member of the Thumb District Dental Society.

The teachers are learning CPR too.

"That was not mandated, and that's really something our teachers are taking up on their own, going above and beyond, as they see the benefit of having that training while it's here for the students," Cain said.

The students also learned how to perform infant CPR and how to use an AED. They proved middle-schoolers can learn these critical skills.

"If the time ever came where I needed to do this, I would definitely step in," 11-year-old Emma Lomasney said.

"They're taking it very serious," DiNardo said. "A lot of the kids this morning, they wanted to know how they could learn even more."

"In the future, I'd like to baby-sit. I know it's very important for baby-sitting kids, so I was really excited to learn it," 12-year-old Sophia Moore said.

"I think this is a great start," DiNardo said. "These kids are gonna go home and talk to their parents. I think they will be more people starting to take CPR."

Donaghy hopes that's true. He said he's grateful that when his sister needed CPR, someone knew how to do it.

"I feel more safe," Donaghy said. "I feel my sister can actually live a full life, and I get to see her grow up. It does matter. You need to learn it to save a loved one."

To learn Hands-Only CPR, click here.