CPR trainer advocates need for youth training

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COLUMBIA - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can be the difference between life and death. According to the Health and Safety Institute, over 36 states now require CPR training as part of high school graduation requirements. A dozen more require  Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training as well. Illinois and Utah added the reqiurement this summer.

In Missouri, high school students are not required to undergo the training. In 2012, Missouri legislators pushed to require students to be trained in CPR in order to graduate. House Bill 1377 passed the Missouri House of Representatives, but did not survive the Senate Education Committee.

81-year-old Walker Thomas has been teaching CPR as a American Red Cross Instructor and Instructor Trainer since 1953.

"I just turned 81, and if I were to have a heart attack, I would want as many people trained as possible, because my life is at stake," he said. "Seriously, we never know when someone is going to have a cardiac arrest. There's no respector of age race or gender. So the more people that are trained, the more people that can help in the event of a cardiac emergency."

The lessons learned in class can be used at a moments notice.

"The main thing is to get oxygen rich blood up to the brain so they have a chance to survive."

According to the American Heart Association, CPR can can double or triple a victim's chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from a bystander. This means less than eight percent of cardiac arrests outside of the hospital survive.

In addition to creating a better trained society, teaching CPR in high school gives students an added bonus.

"The more training they get, the better off they are going to be," Thomas said. "This is because they are going to say 'Hey, I can save a life.'"

The CPR training could include AED training as well, which stops the heart and restarts it on a more regular heartbeat. They are required to be in most public buildings.

Phil Lewis, the executive director of the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals, said the issue stems from space in the curriculum.

"I don't think anyone is against CPR in schools, the big thing is where do we put it?" Lewis said. "If we can include it in a class that's already there, then I think it's wonderful. But if we have to include it as an add on to the curriculum, I think we have a problem."

Lewis stressed that in the worst cause scenario, there are staff members already within schools trained in CPR.

"Most big schools have a nurse who's on hand and already trained in CPR that can respond to any kind of dramatic thing that goes on in the building. And most schools require their coaches to go through some kind of CPR training. The benefit of having our students trained in CPR is that they would be able to help people outside of the school."

The Communications Coordinator for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Sarah Potter said the decision to include CPR and AED training in the curriculum is not made at the state level, but by the different districts.