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Kids empowered with life saving skills

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RONAN – More than a dozen kids at the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County took action when their opposing sports team went down. 

The kids assessed the situation and decided that their patients, the entire opposing team, wasn’t responsive and needed help. The kids started an intense round of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, otherwise known as CPR. 

Luckily, the opposing sports team was really a set of mannequins with a head and torso for the kids to practice the life saving skills they learned during a two-day emergency skills workshop at the club starting on July 6. The kids were asked to imagine the mannequins as people to help them get into the moment of a real life saving situation.

Boys and Girls Club members learned to check the patient for a response, and call 911. The instructors taught them how to do chest compressions and breathe into the patient’s lungs. They also learned how to use an Automated External Defibrillator. 

Wyatt Miljies, 10, clasped his hands together and quickly pushed on the mannequin’s chest cavity in front of him. He added two breaths to inflate the mannequin’s lungs and continued compressions until he determined that a change occurred in his patient. He then picked up the mannequin and proudly announced that his patient was alive. 

Instructor Joyce Lane taught the CPR class at the club. “Even young kids can save lives,” Lane said. She is a certified CPR instructor, and after retiring from a career in the medical field, she became a substitute teacher in the Polson School District. She decided kids would benefit from knowing emergency life saving skills, so she developed a class for them. The kids won’t be certified in CPR with this class but they will know the procedures.

“It isn’t uncommon for someone in a rural community to have an emergency and the kids are the only ones there,” she said.

Montana legislators also decided kids can save lives. On April 13, Montana Senate Bill 135 was passed. The act encourages school districts to provide programs to teach First Aid, CPR, and how to use an AED machine. The goal is to train all high school graduates in CPR so that thousands of rescuers will be added to the population each year. 

Lane said the state has the right idea. She hopes to develop additional classes with animated videos to teach kids CPR as soon as they start school in kindergarten and then add to those skills each year until they graduate high school. She would like to eventually visit schools across the county. The next class is at the Boys and Girls Club in Polson.

Lane received donations to start the program including a set of 30 mannequins and training kits originally put together by the American Heart association. She is looking for more grants and volunteers. 

During the first class, Lane recruited three people to teach life saving skills to the kids. Jayme Cotter is the Polson Middle and High School nurse. Bradley Hout is the Ronan club’s lifeguard, and Justin Brester is a Polson Ambulance crewmember and CPR instructor. 

Brester held up an AED unit and told kids to stand back once they put the machine on a patient, although it was only a mock drill and the machine didn’t turn on. In real life, the machine will assess the patient and won’t work unless it’s needed.  

After the class, Brester said the sooner a patient receives chest compressions in an emergency, the more likely they are to survive, and bystanders including kids can play an important role in providing that care. 

Cotter hopes to raise awareness about how important CPR is for people in rural areas, and she wants to make it something that people see so often that they aren’t afraid to react in a real situation.

The kids said knowing what to do in an emergency makes them feel empowered. “It’s good to know I can do this,” Iggy Quequesah, 10, said. Nissa Rodda, also 10, said she likes learning about CPR. Misa Tedrick, 11, is confident she has the skills to help in an emergency and that knowledge is something that sits well with her. “The thing that stuck in my head about this class is the fact that we can save someone’s life,” she said.

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