Oklahomans Advocate On Behalf Of American Heart Association For CPR In Schools

Survivors of cardiac arrest, along with loved ones of those who didn’t survive, were advocating on behalf of the American Heart Association for legislation intended to save lives in schools.

Tuesday, May 28th 2024, 9:21 am



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Survivors of cardiac arrest, along with loved ones of those who didn’t survive, were in Washington last week advocating on behalf of the American Heart Association for legislation intended to save lives in schools.

The halls of Congress were filled with people wearing red Thursday, one of them Deshawn Caldwell, a young man from Tulsa who’s been able to take his own near-death experience and turn it into an opportunity to save other people’s lives.

“It means everything to me to be able to get out here and to leverage my story,” Caldwell said in an interview Thursday.

Caldwell’s story is that he had an enlarged heart muscle that routine physicals didn’t detect. In 2016, at age 16, the junior at Edison High School collapsed at the end of basketball practice. He says he woke up three days later in the hospital.

“I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know what was going on,” Caldwell said, “only to hear from my doctor that I was saved by CPR at the time that I had collapsed.”

Fortunately, Caldwell’s coach knew CPR. It saved his life, and now he and the American Heart Association are asking lawmakers to support legislation to help get automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and cardiac emergency response plans in schools nationwide.

“So, if somebody does go into cardiac arrest,” he said, “schools have procedures to go to that they can jump into action quick.”

“It’s just a line item that should be in every school budget,” said Cheri Shepard, a fellow member of AHA’s You’re the Cure grassroots network.

Shepherd, who lives in Oklahoma City, lost her husband to a heart attack almost 25 years ago. She says he collapsed while playing racquetball, and it took almost ten minutes for paramedics to arrive.

“Your chance of survival decreases by 10 percent for each minute, right? So eight, nine minutes, he had very little chance,” lamented Shepard in an interview, “and nobody was able to do chest compressions or an AED machine.”

Every year, according to the AHA, more than 350,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest outside of a medical facility, in places where an AED or basic knowledge of CPR can make all the difference.

“That is the reason I’m here today to be able to advocate for the American Heart Association,” Caldwell said, “it’s truly a blessing.”

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