Bills push students to learn CPR

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Dakota Armbrustmacher’s pulse could not be detected and he was turning blue.

Fowler High School freshmen students, like Maddie Veale, center, are required to participate in a surprise CPR drill for health class.

Earlier symptoms pointed to a bad case of the flu, but panic set in when dad, Dan, raced downstairs with the 3-year-old in his arms. That’s when big brother Dane took over.

Mom, Julie, grabbed Dakota and placed him on the floor. Dane, 15, began chest compressions he had learned in a CPR class at Fowler High School a few weeks earlier.

“Everything was happening so quickly, and he wasn’t breathing, so I called 911,” said Julie Armbrustmacher, who lives in Fowler, north of Lansing, with her husband and four children.

“A police officer arrived about five or 10 minutes later and said he felt a faint pulse when he took over the CPR. If Dane had not gotten those first few chest compressions in before the officer arrived, I don’t think Dakota could have been saved.”

Julie said both she and her husband had learned CPR years earlier.

“I am certified but I just lost it,” she said.

Dane, now 16, is low-key about his heroism last year. He said little brother Dakota, now 4, is fine and healthy.

“It makes me feel really good that I was able to save him,” said Dane.

Only three weeks after learning CPR at Fowler High School last year, Dane Armbrustmacher performed the procedure on his three-year-old brother Dakota and saved his life.

“I think everybody should be required to take CPR in high school because you never think something like that could happen to you, but there’s always a chance you might save somebody’s life.”

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, agree. That’s why they are sponsoring legislation that would require every high school student in Michigan to learn hands-only CPR before graduation — between seventh and 12th grades.

According to the American Heart Association, each year, nearly 357,000 Americans have sudden cardiac arrest outside a hospital, and only about 8 percent of these victims survive. CPR can nearly triple these victims’ survival rates by providing assistance until EMTs arrive.

“My hope and intention is that as many students as possible receive instruction in CPR before graduating.”“We are working with the American Heart Association, medical professionals, local leaders and schools to ensure that CPR instruction can be integrated into the curriculum as seamlessly as possible,” Schuitmaker said.

Asked what extra costs could schools face to establish CPR training if the bills pass, Schuitmaker said many schools already offer it as part of their health curriculum.

“These schools have developed various models for providing and paying for the training and equipment; these include using volunteer instructors or video-based programs, and drawing support from local police, fire and ambulance services, businesses, foundations and civic organizations,” she said. “Some schools have even been able to provide training to students at no cost, using community volunteers and donated equipment. ”

Sarah Poole, Michigan government relations director for the American Heart Association, said the legislation lets districts choose how they want to incorporate CPR into their curriculum.

“Costs can vary depending on the type of training utilized, but estimates show the per student cost being approximately 60 cents per student — which is well worth the investment every time a life is saved,” she said.

There are 29 states that require students to learn CPR before graduation. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill last week making his state the latest to require its schools to provide students CPR instruction.

“We’re hoping that Michigan will become the 30th state to pass this very important CPR in schools legislation,” she said.

But getting the bills through has not been without controversy.

“The original bill brought pushback by our schools and boards with concerns on trying to track every student, including incoming students,” said Hooker. “We listened and will introduce a substitute ... which places this training in the Michigan Model Health curriculum, an appropriate placement and already a required class, so no tracking necessary.”

Last month, the American Heart Association joined Sparrow Health System and Fowler Public Schools for a surprise CPR drill with the district’s freshman health class.

Abby Wohlfert, 15, was among the students who participated in the exercise at Fowler High School.

“It was tiring and I was nervous at first,” she said. “While doing compressions on the dummy, you could hear a click but on a real person, there won’t be a click so we were told to go down about two inches where the click would be.”

But now she’s sold on its importance.

“I think it should be a requirement for students to graduate because it only takes a few days to learn and it is very easy and simple,” she said.

Neil Hufnagel, superintendent of Fowler Public Schools and principal of Fowler High School, said the rescue of Dakota Armbrustmacher shows why students should learn CPR. Hufnagel’s district has required the training for five years.

“Teaching CPR in school is already paying off here in Fowler, and we saw that when a Fowler High School student saved the life of his younger brother using CPR,” he said.

Students at Wyandot Middle School in the Chippewa Valley Schools also have taken CPR training.

Seventh-grader Mark Leo, 13, had his a month ago.

“It was a great experience, and now I’m confident that if I see somebody collapse on the street, I’ll know what to do,” he said. “We were taught to first ask, ‘Are you OK?’ and then call 911, then perform the chest compressions to ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the Bee Gees.”

Wyandot Middle School teacher Mary Elias said CPR training is taught in her careers class.

“The more people who know CPR, the better, because you never know what kind of emergency could happen,” she said. “Some people could freeze up, but because these students have practiced, they will know what to do.”

Brad Uren, an emergency room physician and assistant professor in the department of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan, said the benefits of requiring training are clear, and he hopes lawmakers pass the CPR bills soon.

“We know that other states have seen a doubling or even a tripling of their rates of survival and we expect to see similar results here in Michigan,” he said.

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