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North Hills Middle School students get a life lesson to remember

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

In just 40 minutes, North Hills Middle School eighth-graders learned a skill that can save lives.

Students in Nate Buttenfield's health class found out the most important variable in crisis situations is knowing what to do. In this case, Buttenfield's group was learning CPR.

Through a partnership between the McCandless-based Passavant Hospital Foundation and the American Heart Association, middle school students from six local school districts are receiving their own Mini Anne Kits so they can learn the technique to save a heart-attack victim. The foundation provided a $72,000 grant for the kits, and the association purchased about 2,600.

While North Hills eighth-graders are participating, seventh-graders are the program's targets in the North Allegheny, Shaler Area, Hampton, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley school districts.

After classroom instruction, students are able to take home the kits, which contain an inflatable CPR manikin called Anne, an instructional DVD, a training booklet and antiseptic towelettes to teach someone else the life-saving technique.

“This is a good learning experience if you're in one of those situations,” said Hannah McCreary, 13, of Ross Township.

Timing is critical, so it is important that as many people as possible know CPR, said Mary M. Newman, president of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, based in Pine Township.

The Pine Township woman said that “when victims suddenly collapse from cardiac arrest, there is a narrow window of time — generally less than 10 minutes — during which they can be resuscitated.”

“Research shows when bystanders initiate CPR and use AEDs (automated external defibrillators) before EMS arrives at the scene, survival rates increase from about 10 percent to 40 percent,” she said.

After coaching earlier this month by Jen Swab, training coordinator for the Ross/West View Emergency Medical Services Authority, the North Hills students were making confident compressions that could get a victim's heart beating again.

“My aunt saved my grandfather's life,” said Ray Dengler, 13 of Ross. “I'd like to know, if it happened to me.”

With his hands placed in the center of the manikin's chest, he pushed.

“Don't die on me,” said Ray, bringing a little drama to students intent on finding a compression rhythm of 100 per minute.

“It takes nine minutes for an ambulance to arrive in Ross,” said Swab, 50, of Ross Township, a paramedic for 32 years.

The video explained how to approach a victim: “Tap and shout, ‘Are you OK?' Then, call 9-1-1, don't hang up the phone, and start CPR. Try to do it for two minutes.”

Swab took the students through a step-by-step procedure to follow if someone has a heart attack.

“What if the substitute teacher is down?” she asked.

Students responded: “Go get the principal.” “Get the AED.” “Call 9-1-1.” “Have two students start CPR.” “Find the nurse or another teacher.” “Send someone to the school's front door to direct emergency personnel to the classroom.”

Buttenfield, 36, of Richland Township said youths who know how to do CPR might jump in to help more quickly than adults because they won't worry about liability issues.

After his first practice, Garrett Fuchs, 13, of West View, said he was certain he could perform CPR.

“I don't want someone dying on my hands,” he said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or




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