Saving lives is focus of parents' class

Photo by Chris Barber Michael Kolachny in white coat instructs class members on the methods of CPR at Avon Grove Intermediate School on Dec. 3.

PENN -- When the letters went out to parents of Avon Grove Intermediate School parents offering an economical Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation class, the response was so quick that the registration closed within a matter of days. That, said instructor MIchael Kolachny, is because most people want to learn the technique to resuscitate someone who has stopped breathing or has no pulse, but they just don't seem to have the time or a convenient location.

But this class, sponsored by the American Heart Association, was practically in the neighborhood at the school, the fee was only about $7.25, and the time apparently was right. Immediately, members said, they called up and made the reservation the day they got the letter, and ended up the lucky ones to be in the group of 14 who were quick on the draw.

Kolachny, a registered nurse and student at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, works closely with the Chester County Intermediate Unit that provides services to area school districts. He said he knew they were always willing to reach out to local schools, so he volunteered to teach the three-hour course without compensation. He also had the assistance of IU registered nurse Virginia White, anatomy and physiology PhD Annmarie Verenna and registered nurse Ellen Stefanosky. The fee that the parents paid went toward processing and certifications, he said. The funding for materials and visual aids came from grants, he said.

'I think the class is absolutely essential to giving effective CPR,' he said.

The course was a combination of videos and hands-on practice. In recent years, the emphasis in CPR is more on chest compressions than mouth-to-mouth air delivery to lungs. The members of the class learned not only the technique of applying 50 compressions to two breaths, but how to reach out for emergency responders and how to determine if a person is in need of resuscitation.

Several of the people had taken the course before, but their certifcations had run out. Others had been thinking about it for some time and decided that the time was right.

Class member Suzanne Short said she had witnessed someone having a heart attack, and that person was revived by CPR, but she was not the one who gave it. She said she was ready to learn it herself.

Kolachny said he is viewing this course as a pilot -- a start of many CPR classes not only in the Avon Grove School District, but in districts throughout the county.

The class at Avon Grove coincides with the passage by the Pennsylvania Senate of Aidan's Law, which requires all schools to have AEDs, or Automated External Defibrillators, that, like chest compressions, can keep the heart moving until medical treatment is applied.

It also coincides with the annual fund drive of Medic 94, the 'emergency room on wheels,' that responds in concert with an ambulance to people who have heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions or accidents in southern Chester County.

Medic 94 CEO said he is very happy to hear about the course, because he believes the general public at the scene of a heart attack are the actual first responders who keep the victim alive until more sophisticated measures arrive and are applied.

Hotchkiss said CPR can be learned easily, and that even people who have not taken the whole course can be taught to save a life merely by applying 100 heart compressions in a minute.

'I think every kid should have CPR to graduate from high school,' he said.

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