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Brevard Schools to Add CPR Training as Graduation Requirement

Brevard schools to add CPR training as graduation requirement

Lexi Sima and her father, Shawn Sima, of Viera, want state legislators to consider making learning about cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator use a high school graduation requirement. (Photo: PROVIDED PHOTO)

As Shawn Sima sat next to his daughter’s hospital bed, he started to feverishly research.

How could this happen? Here she was a happy, healthy 16-year-old cheerleader, and just like that — Lexi Sima fell off a treadmill at a Viera gym and into cardiac arrest.

She was lifeless with no pulse as she dropped to the ground, seizing and gasping for breath the way a person does right before they die, said Shawn Sima, recounting what witnesses told him.

Even as a physician’s assistant, he couldn’t wrap his mind around it.

“You never think that something like that is going to happen to you,” Shawn Sima said. “I made a lot of deals with God that night as I stood over my daughter.”

What he discovered in his searching was that Lexi was one of thousands each day who experience a sudden cardiac arrest, according to American Heart Association data.

In Lexi’s case, a group of good Samaritans at the gym were able to conduct CPR and revive her with an AED defibrillator. She survived.

Fast forward two years, and Lexi is back to cheerleading at Viera High and will graduate this spring.

He’s now become an advocate to push forward a policy that would require all Brevard County public high school students to receive CPR training before they can graduate. The school board is expected to pass the new graduation requirement at its Nov. 21 meeting. It has broad support from the school board, said School Board member Matt Susin, who has helped champion the cause, and will pass as “a formality” at the meeting.

“It’s a wonderful thing for our students and community,” said School Board Chair Misty Belford. “… We know the difference it makes in survival rates.”

The new CPR requirement would be fully implemented by the 2018-19 school year and mandates that all students receive CPR compression training before they can graduate. The training would take place in physical education courses, specifically required health classes that already go over similar curriculum. Students who already have taken health courses would be grandfathered in and would not need to take additional courses.

Brevard Public Schools in partnership with the American Heart Association and Health First already have begun to implement the new programming. Teachers began training for the new curriculum Wednesday at West Shore Jr./Sr. High School.

The American Heart Association is providing CPR kits to all the schools, which include 10 dummies for compression instructions and all the materials a teacher needs to lead the coursework. Students will not receive a certification, said David Francis of the American Heart Assocation, but they will learn basic compression skills so that they can act in an emergency situation.

The addition won’t cost the schools any extra money, said Susin, as the American Heart Association has provided all of the resources. In the future, Susin anticipates grant money could cover the cost of the kits if needed. Kits last for about five years and cost $615.

But the impact of such coursework is invaluable, he said.

“This is absolutely something we need to do. I was a former coach. I’ve had close situations with CPR before. … I know how important it is to have other eyes and other people there in the event there needs to be CPR,” Susin said.

Francis added that a majority of sudden cardiac arrests occur outside hospitals. If Brevard’s high school students are educated on how to help, it has the potential for saving thousands of lives

“You’ll have roughly have 4,700 students every year in the community who can act if a cardiac arrest happens, that’s a lot of knowledge out there to save a life,” Francis said.

If students are able to administer CPR, it increases the chance of survival 10-fold, he said.

By month’s end, Brevard Public Schools will become the ninth district to implement the training as a graduation requirement. Miami-Dade was the first district to adopt the policy. Clay, Duval, Hillsborough, Nassau, Palm Beach, Pasco and Pinellas counties followed suit.

Statewide, Florida Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, has teamed up with Florida Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, to draft a bill that makes the CPR training a statewide practice. Altman said he anticipates the bill will be introduced sometime before month’s end.

“We think this will save tens of thousands of lives,” Altman said.

Florida is one of 13 states nationwide that hasn’t adopted the CPR education, but this isn’t the first time it has come before the Florida Legislature. It’s been knocked down in the past due to it being labeled as an “unfunded mandate,” Susin said.

Altman wasn’t too concerned about that this go-around, as the cost is so low. However, he’d like to see an introduction to AED training added to the curriculum as well.

As for Shawn Sima, the addition is a victory he hopes the school community and the state — will embrace.

“I know this is work. This is another thing on their plate. But I will tell you for any kid, if they’re going to Princeton, Harvard, Yale, there’s nothing you can teach a kid that’s more important than how to save somebody’s life,” he said. “ … It’s my duty, it’s all our duty to make sure people know this, know the statistics, are educated on what to look for and know how to act fast.”

Story Credit: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2017/11/01/brevard-schools-add-cpr-training-graduation-requirement/818688001/