Hands-on and heart safe


Public safety groups team up to teach students

All of the roughly 900 students at Mound Westonka High School spent an hour and a half of their day on March 10 in an AED/CPR training, learning how to potentially save the life of a person experiencing cardiac arrest.

“We hope you never have to use this, but if you do, you’ll know how,” said Orono Deputy Police Chief Chris Fischer.

“We hope that you learn this and you share it with others,” he added.

The training was a collaborative effort involving the high school, the Mound Fire Department, the Long Lake Fire Department, the Minnetrista Police Department, the Orono Police Department, Ridgeview Medical Center, North Memorial, the Minnesota SCA Survivor Network, the Minnesota Heart Consortium and Advanced First Aid.

All of the students gathered together in the gym for an introduction as the morning began.

“You need to hear firsthand how important doing CPR is,” said Dr. Kevin Sipprell with Ridgeveiw Medical Center.

“If we do nothing, people will die,” Sipprell emphasized.

ene Johnson of New Brighton engages a group of MWHS student in his story of surviving cardiac arrest. Wayne Mueller of Maple Plain tells his story of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest and being resuscitated three times. Officer Jesse Schmidt with the Minnetrista Police explains how to use an AED to the MWHS students. MWHS students practice using an AED at the March 10 CPR/AED training put on by local public safety organizations and the high school. Students listen as they are instructed in CPR.(Laker photos by Katie Morford)
MWHS students practice using an AED at the March 10 CPR/AED training put on by local public safety organizations and the high school.

After the introduction, the students were broken into three groups. Those groups rotated between stations, where they heard the stories of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) survivors, learned compression-only CPR and learned how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED)

Three individuals from Minnesota SCA Survivor Network spoke with the students.

“We were dead, by the definition most people have,” sudden cardiac arrest survivor Larry Matthews said.

Matthews introduced two other survivors, who shared their stories: Wayne Mueller of Maple Plain and Gene Johnson of New Brighton.

Mueller said his sudden cardiac arrest, which he experienced in 2001, felt like someone was clamping a vice grip onto his chest. He didn’t have any idea what was going on.

“Still, the thought of a heart attack never crossed my mind,” he said. “And cardiac arrest — I’d never heard of it before.”

His wife called 911. A firefighter who was next door showed up and started CPR until an ambulance arrived.

“It’s like in the movies,” he said. “I’m laying there, lights are going by.”

He had to be resuscitated three times.

Now, Mueller said that he tells his story to encourage others to do what they can to prevent cardiac arrest and to know what to do if they witness it.

“A number of you, in your lifetime, will come across someone in cardiac arrest,” Mueller said.

Johnson echoed Mueller’s sentiments as he told his story to the MWHS

“It’s wonderful to be here when you’re a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest,” he said. “I was given a second chance.”

“I cried the first six months. I was so happy to be alive,” he added.

Johnson said he dropped in his driveway. Thankfully, the only defibrillator in New Brighton, where he lived, was in a police car three blocks away. That AED saved his life.

Now, Johnson has an AED in his car.

“I carry it to save someone else,” he said.

He encouraged the students to look up from their mobile phones and pay attention to what’s happening around them.

“Just don’t walk by the dead person,” he said.

The survivors also emphasized simple but important steps to prevent sudden cardiac arrest: don’t smoke, eat right and exercise.

“It’s really helpful for the kids to hear this,” Mound Fire Chief Greg Pederson said.

At the other two stations of the training, approximately 55 individuals from the agencies involved were on hand to instruct students in compression-only CPR and use of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

The public safety personnel noted the goal of the training was to make sure the students had the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to spring into action if they witness someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

According to MWHS senior Shelby Smith, the training was effective in achieving those goals.

“I think that this did help me as far as using the AED,” she said. “I was surprised at how easy the AED was and how exhausting CPR can be.”

This training was part of the work of the Lake Area Heart Safe Team, a piece of the broader Heart Safe Community initiative. The goal of the initiative is to have widespread CPR instruction, public access to AEDs and aggressive resuscitation protocols for first responders.

Contact Katie Morford at [email protected]