Editors note: Story updated Nov. 4 to reflect that Delaware became 20th state to require CPR in Schools.
New York moved closer this week toward having CPR in Schools after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a revised CPR in Schools bill.
The new law, signed Tuesday, calls for the commissioner of the State Education Department and the Board of Regents to make the final decision about including cardiopulmonary resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillator instruction as part of required curriculum to graduate from high school.
Education Commissioner John King has 180 days to make a recommendation about CPR and AED instruction to the regents. The regents then have 60 days to act after the commissioner’s report.
“This legislation will help ensure more New Yorkers are prepared to perform CPR and by equipping our kids with this knowledge, we can prevent unnecessary deaths,” said Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a longtime sponsor of the bill, and sponsor of Louis’ Law, which put AEDs into schools in New York.
“Most people are surprised to learn CPR isn’t taught to our kids before they graduate,” said state Sen. Mark Grisanti, sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “Teaching CPR is just common sense. CPR skills will make our communities safer, year after year.”
Annette Adamczak of Akron, New York – whose daughter Emily died in her arms of sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 14 – has fought for CPR in Schools for years. She is one of many advocates for the bill, among them five other mothers who also lost children to sudden cardiac arrest: Karen Acompora of Northport, Melinda Murray of Queens, Suzy McCarthy of Evans, Jill Levine of Merrick and Audrey Linguanti of Spring Valley.
Previous bills required that schools teach Hands-Only CPR after the governor signed, making it an unfunded mandate.
“People slam on the brakes when they hear that. However, we made great progress because lawmakers realize CPR is easy and affordable,” Adamczak said.
Months passed. After a blitz of social media and phone calls, the governor quietly signed the legislation.
Now, Adamczak and the other advocates enter new territory – convincing King and the Board of Regents that teaching Hands-Only CPR can save lives.
Each year, 424,000 people suffer out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest. Only 11 percent survive. Having CPR performed increases the chance of survival.
“I think we’ve got the next steps under control,” Adamczak said. The key is showing the commissioner and the regents that Hands-Only CPR can be taught at little to no cost to the school districts, using the staff in the schools.”
Over the past few years, Adamczak has trained more than 15, 000 students in Hands-Only CPR, teaming up with local ambulance companies and teachers in the schools.
Adamczak was at a soccer practice with her daughter Emily, just a little more than five years ago, when Emily collapsed into her mother’s arms.
“Emily said, ‘Mom, everything is going black,’ and she collapsed into my arms,” Adamczak said.
A nurse from Emily’s pediatric practice was nearby and helped Adamczak carry Emily to a picnic table. When the nurse felt no pulse, they called 911 and started CPR.
“This was an active girl, who just minutes ago had been running around,” Adamczak said. “We got to the hospital in record time. But it was six to eight minutes before we started CPR. We didn’t start CPR on the fields. We waited too long to start CPR. Emily took her last breath in my arms.”
For Adamczak, teaching CPR went from being grief work, to a passion and a vision.
“It’s a positive thing, knowing that I might prevent another family from this kind of loss,” Adamczak said.
“I really hope the commissioner doesn’t take the entire 180 days,” Adamczak said. “I know there’s a lot of work to do, but we’ll get there. We have skilled hands down here, but we have angel wings guiding us along from heaven.”
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