Article courtesy of Chicago Tribute By Ashley Rueff, Chicago Tribune reporter

First responders shared experiences with CPR, Heimlich and AEDs

Community members took turns driving home the importance of the newly acquired life-saving skills of about 200 seventh-graders at Jerling Junior High School Monday celebrating the completion of their CPR and AED training.

“After taking this CPR class, you all have an awesome gift,” said physical education teacher Maureen Zopf. “The ability to save lives.”

The students gathered in their gym for a special assembly to congratulate the students for completing an American Heart Association CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training program earlier this year, and to demonstrate the importance of their new skills.

Emphasizing the theme of the assembly — that it takes a village to save a life — Zopf, other school officials, police officers, firefighters and community members came to tell the students their own experiences with CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and AEDs.

Zopf explained how her experience with CPR helped her revive a man who collapsed at the gym next to her in 2009. And the school’s office secretary, Kathy Cavalier, explained how her training helped her save the life of a teacher who was choking last school year.

“Now that you’ve gone through the program, I want you to keep it up,” she told students. “You’re never going to know when you’ll need these skills.”

About four years ago, Orland School District 135 implemented a new curriculum policy that requires all junior high students to receive life-saving training, including CPR and AEDs, in their health or gym classes, said school board member Lynne Donegan.

“So far, we’ve had almost 3,000 kids trained between the three junior highs,” she said.

Alex Meixner, director of government relations for the American Heart Association in Chicago, said he wished more schools would take the same initiative to teach students these important skills.

“We need to make sure you guys are a model for every school around the state, around the country,” he said.

Preparing community members to respond to those suffering a cardiac arrest is an important one to Donegan. She took up the cause after her relative and friend, Colleen O’Sullivan, died in 2002 at age 30. O’Sullivan, who grew up in Tinley Park, went into cardiac arrest while exercising at the gym. No one at the facility began CPR, and when paramedics arrived, the time frame to help her survive had passed.

Donegan and her family worked to pass the Colleen O’Sullivan law requiring AEDs be kept in more facilities, and she continues her work of public education about these life-saving tools today.

After sharing her story about O’Sullivan with the students, Donegan said now that they have these important skills, it is up to them to react if they ever see anyone in distress.

“We need your help,” she said. “Take my story on your journey.”Principal Dave Kennedy drove home the point just before sending the students back to class.”I’m sure Ms. Donegan would have been very happy to have one of you in that gym with her friend,” he