Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 21, 2013

SALISBURY — For American Heart Month in February, second-graders in the Rowan-Salisbury School System are learning how to keep someone’s heart beating.
Rowan Regional Medical Center and Rowan County EMS have teamed up this month to teach all second-grade students in the Fit for Motion program at the Rowan-Salisbury School System about heart disease and hands-only CPR.
Representatives from the hospital and EMS visited four second-grade classes Monday at Millbridge Elementary School.
Each of them helped a group of students practice chest compressions on blue dummies shaped like a human torso. The children knelt on the ground and pumped their arms in a determined effort to revive their odd-looking patients.
Landon Hughes, 8, said he had heard about CPR but never tried it before.
“It’s good so you can help people before 911 gets there,” he said. “It was hard, and it takes a lot of breath out of you.”
Gracie Sipe, also 8, said practicing CPR on the dummies was tiring, but she’s glad she learned how.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “If you learn how to do it, you know how to wake people up who need help.”
Maria Rimer and Lt. Aaron Thurston, paramedics with Rowan County EMS, spoke to four second-grade classes Monday at Millbridge.
First, they made sure the children knew how to call 911 in an emergency.
“Make sure you know your phone number and know your address,” Thurston said. “If mommy and daddy won’t wake up, call 911.”
Rimer then told the children that they can help an unconscious person while they’re waiting for the ambulance.
“How do you know that they’re not just sleeping?” Rimer said.
After a few guesses, the students answered that they won’t wake up and they don’t have a pulse.
“Where do you check your pulse?” Rimer said.
They started to place their fingers on the underside of their wrists and the side of their necks. Paramedics and hospital staff helped the children move their fingers to the right spot, where they could feel a steady heartbeat.
If another person has no pulse, Rimer said, it’s time to start CPR.
When she asked who already knew how to do CPR, a few of the students raised their hands. For those who didn’t, Rimer told them what to do.
Hands-only CPR is a new technique that the American Heart Association is recommending that everyone know. It doesn’t involve breaths like conventional CPR, though that is still recommended for patients who are children or who have collapsed due to a breathing problem.
“You push on their chest to start compressions,” Rimer told the class. “We don’t do mouth-to-mouth anymore. … And we don’t put fingers in their mouth, or they could have a snack when they wake up. Don’t practice on anybody else except these dummies or your stuffed animals.”
Mirroring the paramedics, the children stretched their arms downward, one hand on top of the other, with their palms facing the floor.
Thurston told the young boys and girls to press as hard as they could on the center of the person’s chest, in order to keep the heart beating, about 200 times per minute for at least two minutes.
“You can do CPR on somebody who needs it without hurting them,” he said.
Ivan Fernandez, 7, said he was determined to get to the goal of 200 compressions in two minutes.
“It kind of hurt my arms, but I kept trying and trying,” he said. “I ended up making 206.”
He said his mother told him how to do CPR, but he had never gotten to practice that way before.
Lydia Boger, 7, said she already knew CPR from her own mother, who works at North Carolina Assisted Living.
“She has a little (dummy) to do CPR on that shows how to do it,” she said. “That’s how I learned how to do it, too.”
A representative from the cardiology team at Rowan Regional, along with an EMS employee and the hospital Fit for Motion instructor, will be at all of the county’s elementary schools this month.
This month’s CPR education is part of the Fit for Motion program at 13 local schools. Alternating weeks, the YMCA leads students in an exercise and fitness activity, and Rowan Regional teaches them about nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices.
“Our teams felt this was a great platform to begin educating children, teachers, parents and others about the importance of understanding heart disease and hands-only CPR,” said hospital spokeswoman Falon Nye.
Shea McNabb, clinical educator for Smith heart and vascular center at Rowan Regional, said the hospital tries to incorporate something about heart health each February. This is the first time it has focused on CPR.
“A lot of times, we hear stories of kids, that they’re the only one with a grandmother or grandfather when they fall out,” McNabb said. “We thought if we reached out to them and taught them hands-only CPR, they could get the message back to their homes and to their parents.”
She said the hospital reached out to Rowan County EMS, which provided practice dummies and agreed to lead instruction about the life-saving technique.
“I’m really thankful they teamed up with us,” McNabb said.
When Rowan County EMS workers first arrive on a scene where someone has collapsed, Thurston said, they put the highest priority on chest compressions and defibrillations.
“Studies from American Heart Associations show that’s the two things that save lives,” he said. “We’ve started this approach in county, and it has drastically increased our success of people coming home from hospital alive over what it used to be.”
As more personnel get to the scene, emergency responders can focus more on ventilation and airway management.
Thurston said he thinks it’s a good idea to start CPR education early, so children can start live-saving measures if no one is there to help them.
“Even if they can’t do the best CPR, something’s better than nothing,” he said. “Hopefully… they’ll remember it, and they can refresh that each year and learn better and better how to do it.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.