Illinois Has the Answer!

Illinois Has the Answer!

Jun 6, 2014

Did you know that this week is National CPR Awareness Week?  In some places, people are celebrating it the right way.  Earlier this week, Governor Quinn of the State of Illinois signed into law a bill requiring high schools to add CPR and AED training to their curriculum.  The bill was created in response to the death of Lauren Laman who died while practicing with the school’s dance team.  Lauren received no prearrival CPR, and although there was an AED nearby, no one received it or thought to use it.

Obviously, no one can really know if CPR and the AED would have definitively saved Lauren’s life but at least we would have given her a fighting chance had the skill and the device been used.  The creation of this law is a great thing, and it’s about damn time that somebody somewhere finally got this one right.

I wish I knew, Peter.

I wish I knew, Peter.

I remember back in the (late) 1990’s when I was in high school, our junior year health semester was dominated by first aid training.  We learned CPR, but if I remember correctly, while we received the class, we did not receive cards in our pockets.  Looking back, I guess it was better than nothing and a step in the right direction.

Think about many of the cardiac arrests that we run.  Someone has to call them in, right?  Whether it is someone at home with the patient or someone in the street with the patient there is someone else there more times than not.  Now, compare that number to the actual number of people who receive pre-arrival CPR.  Emergency Medical Dispatch’s version of pre-arrival instructions are great, but there is nothing better in a situation like that than having the knowledge in your own head of what to do.

With the introduction of cell phones, we have conditioned society to call in incidents and make them somebody else’s problem.  It all led to what I liked to call the “third party caller not minding their own business” job.  You know, those calls for the person sleeping on a park bench, or someone who “looks like” they might be in distress.  Occasionally, that caller will stick around at the scene and give what in Springfield became affectionately known as the “stare of life.”  We have increased our volume, and have captured incidents that we hadn’t captured previously but we have also added some unnecessary runs to our days that might have been avoided if someone took the initiative to approach somebody and say “Hey, are you okay?”

Which brings me back to the need for more bystander education.  It is hard for me to write a long piece advocating for teaching CPR in high schools because I feel like it is a no brainer.  I can’t believe that it is not already happening in more places.  In Massachusetts students had to pass an antiquated standardized test in order to be allowed to graduate high school.  Why can’t a program like mandatory CPR training be tacked on to that?  What are people afraid of?  What are the downsides to a program like that?  Personally, I see none.

High school students are closer to the blank canvas of society than their parents or older siblings.  The earlier we start this education the better.  In fact recently, a paramedic in my service has started teaching CPR to fifth graders.  Those kids are getting to learn the importance of hands only CPR early so that if the situation presents itself ten or twenty years down the road, maybe, just maybe they will be more apt to not only pick up the phone to call for help, but then put it down and actually do something about it.

All that we can really do is hope that other states follow Illinois’ lead.  I am sure that some will scream and cry about an “unfunded mandate” but let’s not forget that the more tax payer lives that we save, the more tax money that we have to draw from.  While that is obviously not my priority, obviously some bean counters out there are going to care about just that.

The best thing that we can do as providers, parents, and citizens in to strongly encourage our school systems and law makers to adopt similar policies to the law that was just passed in Illinois.  We need to push forward with initiatives like this one in each of the 50 states.  It is not a question of whether or not lives will be saved with their introduction but a bigger question of when it will actually happen.