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Students learn hands-only CPR during summer program

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Kaitlyn Giel, 11, (left) looks on as as Erika Davis, 10, both of Whitehall practices CPR as part of, 'MRTSA project: SAFE SUMMER' Tuesday, July, 2, 2013 at Snyder Park in Whitehall.
Camp counselor Hannah Vetere helps Caleb Giel, 12, of Whitehall place his hands while learning CPR as part of, 'MRTSA project: SAFE SUMMER' at Snyder Park in Whitehall.
Camp counselor Hannah Vetere looks on as MRTSA Deputy Chief of Administration Jesse Siefert instructs Brandon Herrera, 10, (center) and Ryan Shanem, 6, both of Whitehall, how to perform CPR as part of 'MRTSA project: SAFE SUMMER.'
Coral Armbruster, 9, of Whitehall practices CPR as part of, 'MRTSA project: SAFE SUMMER.'
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Students look on as MRTSA Deputy Chief of Administration Jesse Siefert shows Johnny Tagg, 6, of Whitehall how to properly administer CPR at Snyder Park in Whitehall.

A line of youngsters formed around the lifeless body.

Each waited for a turn to start compressions and try to resuscitate the pale figure.

“Make sure your hands are in the middle,” Jesse Siefert, Medical Rescue Team South Authority deputy chief of administration, reminded the group of more than 75 elementary- and middle school-age students, as they learned to perform hands-only CPR on the child-size dummy.

“If you need to remember how fast to go, just think of that disco song: ‘Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive,'” added Siefert, bursting into song.

A new initiative by Medical Rescue Team South Authority, “Project: Safe Summer” is targeting youths across the area to provide them with basic medical training — teaching them how to dial 911 and perform CPR — in an effort to reduce childhood injuries, Siefert said.

“Our goal with ‘Project: Safe Summer' is to provide injury-prevention resources and further advance our injury-prevention programs to kids,” Siefert said. “The more exposure we can get them to this, the more comfortable they will be with it if the time comes that they need to use it.”

This summer, paramedics from Medical Rescue Team South Authority, or MRTSA — which provides emergency services for Mt. Lebanon, Whitehall, Baldwin Township, Green Tree, Castle Shannon and Dormont — will supply CPR training to the more than 500 children involved in Whitehall Borough's free six-week recreation program that takes place in the municipality's five parks, Siefert said. A children's public-safety camp also will be held in Mt. Lebanon, and paramedics plan to provide education to youths at vacation Bible schools and other summer programs.

“Kids don't want to sit in a classroom during the summer, so we came up with the idea of taking the CPR classes to them. What better venue for teaching than in a park?” Siefert said. “CPR training at a young age is all about familiarity. We teach the process until the kids are comfortable with it, so in a real emergency, they are simply reacting.”

MRTSA has partnered with Whitehall Borough's recreation camp for several years by teaching the more than a dozen camp counselors CPR and first aid prior to the start of the annual program, borough recreation director Kelly Joyce said.

While the recreation camp centers around games, crafts and fun activities, learning also is an important element, Joyce said.

“Our program is not just about coming to the park and playing,” Joyce said. “We want to provide them with things of valuable substance, too. Hopefully, they'll never have to use this. But if there's a chance that one day they'll be in a situation where they need to perform CPR, they'll have those skills.”

Many of the youngsters at Snyder Park last week for recreation camp said they already had learned some form of CPR. Yet they said they were surprised to see CPR done without the old-school mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and instead simply done with only chest compressions.

The youngsters understood the importance of learning CPR.

“In case somebody falls and hurts themselves or if they don't feel good and they fall backwards and you see them laying there on the ground and they're not breathing, you might need to do CPR,” said Jaden Duttine, 6.

They also understood the chest compressions were not to be used for fun and only should be done in serious situations.

“It could really hurt their ribs because you're pushing so hard,” said Joey Shields, 12. “I'd definitely be scared to use it. You never know if you're going to use it right until the person wakes up — or doesn't.”

Siefert said he plans to teach CPR in local schools beginning this fall.

“That was awesome. We got to see the inside of the ambulance,” Jaden said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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