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Editorial: Heroic teens demonstrate power of CPR/AED training

When their friend’s heart stopped beating while playing basketball on Thursday, a group of Sonoma Valley teens swooped into action. They started CPR, physically forcing the heart to pump. They also located the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED), to try to shock his heart back to life.

As Fire Chief Steve Akre perfectly summarized: “They did everything they could possibly do. They did everything right.”

Three cheers to these young people, who kept their wits about them in a terrifying series of events. They managed to put fears aside and focus on saving their friend, using all the tools at their disposal.

It helped, of course, that Sonoma Valley High School is equipped with five AED machines, spread around campus. The one used by the teens was located right by the basketball court, and glows bright red in the dark making it noticeable from a distance. Such features should be a staple on all high school campuses, along with training on the life-saving equipment and CPR.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes. Estimates vary, but some reports suggest that about 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 80,000 young athletes die of sudden cardiac death each year.”

Such incidents are just common enough that they’re worth preparing for. And these students likely were prepared when it comes to CPR. Sonoma Valley High requires students to take CPR in their first semester of P.E. II (students who waive that class must show proof of being CPR certified), according to Superintendent Dr. Adrian Palazuelos.

Beyond what is learned on campus, the American Red Cross has been preparing people for the worst for more than a century. In addition to online courses ($35) that cover both CPR and how to use an AED. To be officially certified in life-saving treatments, there are in-person classes ($42 to $126) available multiple times a week at the Santa Rosa office of the Red Cross.

Another useful tool can be found with the PulsePoint AED app, available for download for free from the App Store. Many readers might be familiar with the fire watch app PulsePoint, which gives regular updates on reported fires. This sister app crowdsources the location of AED machines in the community, for those moments you need to find one quickly. From the Sonoma Community Center to Benziger Family Winery, there are dozens of these critical machines located throughout our Valley. (Glen Ellen, it should be noted, only has three confirmed AEDs. There are likely more machines that have not been reported to the PulsePoint AED app. It would be beneficial to all to add more, if anyone knows where they are).

Moments like this are a good reminder to all of us to check in with our skills, and make sure we’re up to date in case the unthinkable ever happens. And if that ever happens, let’s all hope for the grace under pressure shown by those heroic teens on Thursday night.

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