CPR training prepares students for dire emergencies
Sen. Debbie Mayfield encourages students to help pass the CPR bill in Florida.
VIERA VOICE Julie Sturgeon
When Lexi Sima collapsed to the floor at a Viera gym during a routine treadmill workout, she became a statistic. Sima is among 10 percent of Americans who have survived a sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital in 2016.
Fortunately for Sima, 10 minutes of emergency assistance from other gym members made the difference between life and death. Sima experienced sudden cardiac arrest, often fatal, but within seconds after Sima fell off a treadmill, fellow gym members were by her side performing CPR and then using an automated external defibrillator (AED).
“It really can happen to anyone,” said Sima, who recently spoke to a group of students at Viera High School. “He (Bob Sick) gave me CPR and used an AED.”
Sudden cardiac arrest is when an electrical disturbance occurs in the heart, stopping blood flow to the body. Death can ensue within minutes. If performed quickly enough, CPR can increase the chances of survival after cardiac arrest.
In conjunction with CPR, an AED can be used to send an electric shock to the heart to regain normal blood flow. The Viera gym had a portable AED on site.
“I am a medical provider, and I never gave much thought to the difference between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack,” said Shawn Sima, Lexi’s father. “In Lexi’s case, it was about 12 minutes until the ambulance got there. Lexi was saved because of four people that acted fast.”
In addition to being the No. 1 killer of Americans, sudden cardiac arrest is the primary cause of death in student athletes. Unlike a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest occurs without warning, and loss of consciousness can occur within seconds.
“Fifty kids since 1997 have died from head injuries from football,” Lexi Sima said. “Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in student athletes.”
Ninety percent of the time, sudden cardiac arrests are fatal. That bleak figure could be altered if more citizens knew how to perform CPR and use an AED. Ideally, CPR should be performed immediately. Response time for 911 can take up to 10 minutes, which usually is too late for sudden cardiac revival.
“I am trying to get you guys to learn CPR … so you can help a sibling, parent, grandparent or friend,” Lexi Sima told VHS students. “(If) someone dies next to you, what are you going to do about it?”
High School students in Brevard County now will be trained in CPR as a graduation requirement due to a recent affirmative vote by the school board. However, there still are more than 50 other Florida counties without the policy.
“We want to take it statewide,” Shawn Sima said.
State Senator Debbie Mayfield and State Representative Thad Altman are teaming up with the Simas, hoping to pass a bill that would make training in CPR use mandatory for all Florida high school students.
The bill states in part, “as part of the physical education curriculum or any other required curriculum that a school district may designate, each school shall provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which is based on an instructional program established by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross or another nationally recognized program.’’
“(With this training), if someone were to drop down, they would know exactly what to do to save that person’s life,” Mayfield told VHS students. “When we have our committee meetings and present the bill, I want to make sure that (Lexi and Shawn) are there because only (they) can tell the story.”
Mayfield added that many laws are passed because people become passionate about something that happens to them. The Simas are passionate about getting the CPR bill passed.
“We will get a lot of resistance in telling the Department of Education,” said Altman to the students. “This will be difficult, I’ve done this bill before and we were not able to pass it.”
A previous bill was unsuccessful in 2015. But Sen. Mayfield wants to paint a new picture for the future: “When Mr. Sick and others, when (they) help to save (a) life, he’s got three of you guys standing next to him (to help),” Mayfield said, “rather than wondering what to do.”
To read the bill in its entirety, go to flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2015/1311/BillText/Filed/PDF.