By Mindy Ragan Wood
A teenager enjoying dinner with his family is faced with a life and death crisis when his father falls to the floor unconscious. The young man springs into action and performs CPR until the ambulance arrives, saving his father’s life.
That is a true story Steve Embree loves to tell when he talks about the importance of CPR classes for high school students. He is the Oklahoma spokesman for the American Heart Association (AHA).
The non-profit organization recently presented CPR training kits to Oklahoma schools including Yukon High School and Piedmont High School.
“It’s no secret that Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of heart disease and cardio vascular deaths, so it’s a huge problem locally. One of the things we push from our standpoint is bystander education,” Embree said. “It can be life or death situations and we’re working to train as many bystanders as we can. We’re able to train 35,000 to 40,000 citizens every year with CPR training in high schools. It makes a huge difference.”
That difference is made possible with grants from the local business community. Mammath Energy paid for 16 training kits, around $80,000, for the AHA’s CPR in Schools Program.
Oklahoma House Bill 1378 passed in 2014 and requires at least one teacher and one non-certified staff member be trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. It requires the same of students before they graduate unless the parent opts out or the student has a disability that prevents them from taking the course.
Embree said within two months of the bill passing, they learned two high school students had given CPR and helped save a loved one’s life.
“In a cardiac arrest situation, CPR can double or triple someone’s chance of survival,” Embree said.
More than 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, the AHA reported. About 90 percent of those victims die, often because bystanders don’t know how to start CPR or are afraid they’ll do something wrong.
“One of the reasons we have such low survival rates in Oklahoma is because in rural areas it often takes 15 to 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive,” Embree said.
With CPR as a graduation requirement, it will mean more bystanders could be ready to take action. The class takes about 30 minutes to an hour using a DVD instruction video and dummies on which students can practice the technique.
Yukon High School Principal Melissa Barlow was grateful for the donation.
“We will implement this kit into our current CPR education program with our ninth-grade students in their Keystone class,” Barlow said in a prepared statement. “This kit will allow for us to give students additional hands-on opportunities while learning CPR through our training program. We are grateful for Mammoth Energy and the donation of this CPR kit, as it allows us to improve instruction for all students at Yukon High School. We are thankful for partners in education, such as Mammoth Energy, as they help us build opportunities for our students.”
A call to Piedmont High School Principal Trinity Johnson was not returned at press time.