Melrose teens learn ‘CPR Anytime’

Patturelli, the community outreach director for the hospital, was one of several volunteers who helped train Melrose High School freshmen and sophomores in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques — called “CPR Anytime” — during health classes at the school on Thursday, May 20.

About 450 students received the training, which utilized instructional kits from the American Heart Association (AHA) to help students practice mouth-to-mouth ventilation, chest compressions, and the Heimlich maneuver — the familiar technique used to help choking victims.

Volunteers from Hallmark Health, which operates Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, are also holding CPR training sessions for students in Malden, Medford, Stoneham and Wakefield.

Presently, less than one third of people who experience a cardiac arrest at home, at work or in a public location receive bystander CPR, according to AHA data. Patturelli says that bystanders are often intimidated by the prospect that they might do something wrong, even though basic chest compressions may be enough to save a victim’s life.

“There are situations in schools that we hear where coaches or teachers or other students need [CPR], and there haven’t been people around that know what to do,” explained Patturelli, “so we’re hoping we’re going to change the statistics in our community and make it a safer place.”

Under the direction of facilitators from Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, Cataldo Ambulance Services, and Armstrong Ambulance, students gathered into groups of eight to 10 and followed along with the training video to practice CPR techniques on inflatable “Mini Anne” CPR dummies. The dummies were distributed to each student in AHA’s “CPR Anytime” kits, which also include a copy of the instructional video and an extra “lung” to replace the one inside the dummy.

For some students, like tenth-grader Andrew Wiswell, one hour of practice time was enough to become comfortable with the three emergency techniques, although Wiswell added he would brush up his skills at home.

Some aspects of the introductory CPR course proved challenging for others.

“I didn’t think pressing down on the chest would be as hard as it was,” sophomore Megan Norton said. “It requires a lot of upper body strength.”

Sophomore Robb Pesaturo said he had no trouble performing the chest compressions, although he found the ventilation technique difficult.

“The whole mouth-to-mouth thing was hard, but the hands-on was easy,” Pesaturo said. “I couldn’t get the dummy to blow up.”

Simple chest compressions — clasping both hands together and thrusting downward onto the chest of someone whose heart has stopped beating — are now the recommended technique for bystanders who encounter someone suffering a cardiac event, according to AHA instructor Linda Leis, who supervised the event. Leis said that, although the technique can be difficult to master, it’s often more appealing for people who are reticent to perform mouth-to-mouth CPR on a stranger.

“Like anything else, it’s a skill that you need to practice, and that’s why even people who are certified need to be certified every couple of years,” Leis said, “so they keep their skills sharp.”

After the one-hour training session, students were encouraged to continue practicing with the kits at home, and to share their new emergency response skills with family members and friends. Patturelli said that students who share the kits with three other people will be entered into a drawing to win an iPod music player.

“We’re just trying to give them a nice incentive to go home and teach their families, because the more we can spread this out through the students and their families, our community will stay safer,” she said.

The CPR training program was sponsored by Hallmark Health System and funded through Hallmark’s annual Stride for Health charity walk. This year’s walk takes place on Sunday, June 6 at 5 p.m. at Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield.

While the “CPR Anytime” course also touches on how to help drowning victims and how to operate automated external defibrillators (AED), Leis said that for many students, the most important lesson is simply to call 911 as fast as possible.

“Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack is a big part of this,” Leis said.

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