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Carpenters Middle School practices saving lives

posted Oct 3, 2016, 8:06 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 8:06 AM ]

When someone suffers from a sudden cardiac arrest, every minute counts. If the person receives CPR and shock with an automated external defibrillator (AED) within three to five minutes, the odds of survival are about 70 percent, according to Karen Dean Smith, coordinator of the Project ADAM program at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, who works to provide training and supplies to schools. With each passing minute, the survival rate drops 10 percent.

“It’s a quick thing, and it has to be responded to quickly,” Smith said during a recent interview. “Our goal is to be able to get an AED delivering a shock to anywhere on campus in three to five minutes.” During a drill Wednesday at Carpenters Middle School, the cardiac response team had an AED to the “victim” in less than 50 seconds and delivered the first shock within two minutes. In this case the “victim” was a practice dummy.

While Blount County Schools have conducted staff CPR and AED training for years, the student health services coordinator, Robin Cook, told every school to conduct at least two drills this school year. “The drills give everyone a better perspective of what everybody’s roles are,” Cook said. “The drills will make a difference.”

Multiple roles

“We’re not professionals, but we want to be as prepared as possible,” said CMS Principal Jon Young. The 10 members of the CMS cardiac arrest response team (CART) are a subset of the school’s crisis team, chosen for their locations in the school and their ability to handle stressful situations. For example, Halle Timpson, a sixth-grade math and science teacher whose classroom is close to the AED location, is also an Air Force veteran. “We all know our roles,” CMS Assistant Principal Courtney Whitehead said.

The school resource officer and head custodian are responsible for communicating with the 911 dispatch center and ambulance service. The front office calls Carpenters Elementary for its school nurse to come to the middle school to care for any children in the clinic and relay any health information from the files in the nurse’s office about the victim.

Teachers who aren’t on the crises team know to cover classes for those who are and to keep students out of the hallways and away from the incident scene, creating a clear pathway for an ambulance crew to respond. On her way to the scene, school nurse Angie Gillis, RN, grabs a red backpack that includes items such as a first-aid kit, airway, blood pressure cuff and more. “It’s my little ambulance in a bag, she said.

Refining practices

“We learn something every time,” Whitehead said of the CMS drills. Each time the CMS staff has refined its process. The first time, for example, they learned that they could use a button on their radios to activate a siren sound. Because three team members are designated to take the school’s AED to the site, in case someone is out of the building, they learned that when the person who retrieves it leaves the case door open others can easily see the devices is on its way.
While drills make the staff feel more prepared, they also reassure the students. “The more they see us doing this, the more comfortable they are,” Young said.

Prepared for years

While the drills in Blount County Schools may be new, training isn’t. The registered nurses who work in Blount County’s middle and high schools are trained CPR instructors, and staff members are encouraged to take the CPR training they offer, which includes AED training. “We’re constantly doing CPR training throughout the year,” Cook said. All coaches must have the training, and every field trip must include an adult trained in CPR. The first two AEDs were donated to Blount County Schools 10-15 years ago, and by 2009 every school had at least one, Cook said. Some have two AEDs and the high schools have three. BCS has a total of 33 AEDs. “All schools are working toward being designated as Heart Safe Schools,” Cook said. CMS received its accreditation a few weeks ago.

To receive that accreditation through the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation, schools must complete a number of steps to raise awareness and prevent cardiac deaths, in addition to training and drills. Maryville and Alcoa schools also have received Heart Safe Schools designation.
But even Smith said it’s the training and drills that makes a difference, whether schools pursue that certification or not. Bills pending in the Tennessee General Assembly would require every school with at least one AED to have annual training and at least one annual drill.

By Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times