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Sylkia Martinez, Florida

Imagine you are in the middle of class at school and someone collapses.  Would you know what to do?  What would you do?  Are you and your child’s school prepared to help save that person’s life?  Or do you think that you will never face a situation like this?

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The reality is that you may witness or, even worse, be the victim of such an emergency situation and chances are that no one will know what to do or will do nothing. Surveys show that 70% of the US population affirms they will not know what to do or will not do anything.

Knowing what to do will make the difference between life and death for that person and every second counts. The truth is that this happens more frequently that you imagine and more than 360,000 people die every year in the USA due to sudden cardiac arrest.

This is the story behind the Michael A. Namey Initiative, an initiative created after the unfortunate and tragic event that lead to the untimely death of Michael Namey in September 2015.

Michael was just 18-years-old. He played various sports throughout childhood and had always been a healthy boy. His routine physical and sports physical exams never showed any abnormal findings, which is the case with the majority of youth victims of SCA.

Michael graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in May 2015 and headed off to college to pursuit his dream. Four weeks after Fall session started, Michael was in the middle of class when he suddenly collapsed. There were approximately 100 students in that classroom. One student inside that room and another one, who was waiting outside for his next class, knew CPR. The one waiting outside stated that he heard the commotion and saw students running and went inside to help. No one knew where to find an AED in the building, so it took a while before one was available. The TV news and newspapers mentioned he “had a seizure” and collapsed. So far from the truth. Michael had sudden cardiac arrest and, like it happens with many other victims, sudden cardiac arrest was the first manifestation of a hidden heart problem. And like more than 90% of the victims, Michael did not survive.

We all have heard the stories about college athletes dying while playing. Such tragedies usually make the news.

We hear about it, hypothesize about what could have happened, feel sorry for the family and the victim, and keep going on with our lives. Never think about it until we hear similar news again. Athletes’ deaths may make the national news but so many thousands of youth deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest never make the news! When Michael died, his death shook me. He was a dear friend of my son Ryan since middle school and were roommates during that 2015 summer session at college. After many hours of researching sudden cardiac arrest, discovering several startling statistics, and learning that Florida is not one of the, back then 27 and now 37, states that require CPR training before graduating from high school, I realized there is a huge need to increase sudden cardiac arrest, AED, and Hands-Only CPR awareness and that the majority of our schools are not prepared for such emergencies.

That is why, with the support and approval of Connie Namey, Michael’s mom, I created the Michael A. Namey (MAN) Initiative to help save lives at schools and communities.

Through this initiative, middle/high school students and schools’ staff receive Hands-Only CPR and AED-use training. We partnered with Baptist Health and, with the help of their CPR training coordinator, Cathy Clark, these training events are coordinated with the schools. We provide schools the protocols on how to: create CERT (Cardiac Emergency Response Team), CERP (Cardiac Emergency Response Plan), and run cardiac emergency drills. Through a partnership with Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and their Michael Namey AED Initiative, schools receive grants to obtain AEDs and all the equipment needed so they can implement the CPR/AED training into their curriculum and continue training their students after our initial training. The equipment include manikins and AED trainers too.

SCA does not discriminate age, gender, race, or place. It can happened to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It is our goal to get every Florida school ready to face a SCA emergency and to help train the next generation of lifesavers. Are your children’s schools ready? Wouldn’t you want for them to be ready and to teach your middle/high school children these lifesaving skills? You can ask them to. These skills can be learned in less than 15 minutes and will save lives. You can learn them too.

Last November, Florida Senator Mayfield and House Representative Altman introduced Florida Senate Bill 996 and House Bill 795 respectively.

The bills asked to make CPR/AED training a requirement before high school graduation here in Florida. As standing alone bills, they were not able to be heard and approved by all the committees and subcommittees that needed to hear and approve them. An amendment to CS/HB 7055 was introduced and approved instead. It reads as follow:

(3) School districts are encouraged to provide basic training in first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, for all students, beginning in grade 6 and every 2 years thereafter. Instruction in the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation must be based on a nationally recognized program that uses the most current evidence-based emergency cardiovascular care guidelines. The instruction must allow students to practice the psychomotor skills associated with performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use an automated external defibrillator when a school district has the equipment necessary to perform the instruction. Private and public partnerships for providing training or necessary funding are encouraged.

This is a big step toward our goal but it leaves the decision on whether or not to train students, to each district or school. We encouraged you to call and/or email your school board and talk to your school principal asking them to get the training at your children’s schools. If you need help, contact us through our Michael Namey AED Initiative Facebook page and we will help you.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” This is one of those important things that matter. Let’s do something about it.

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