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Libby Char, Hawaii

Despite her extremely busy work schedule as an emergency physician, as the Medical Director for EMS and several of Hawaii’s first responder agencies and the  American Heart Association Hawaii Division Board President Libby Char, M.D. still finds time to support American Heart Association policy efforts to make Hawaii healthier.

She sees the value of using policy change as a way to more quickly and efficiently change public norms that will result in improved public health.  Dr. Char has supported our efforts this year to require all newborns to be screened for congenital heart defects, requiring all high school students to receive CPR training prior to graduation, and development of policy aimed at improving Hawaii’s stroke system of care.

Just one example of the great work Char has done was earlier this year when she, along with other AHA volunteer advocates, met with the Hawaii Dept. of Education assistant superintendent of the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, Leila Hayashida, to propose changes to the high school health class curriculum that would require CPR instruction to be included. Completion of a health class is required for graduation.

AHA volunteers also worked with Hawaii Department of Health representatives to provide funding to the DOE to purchase CPR manikins and training equipment for health classes. AHA CPR trainers also taught the DOE’s health class resource teachers in how to implement simple “hands-only” CPR training, so that they can train the classroom instructors.

The AHA’s “hands-only” CPR can be taught in just one class period. Dr. Char believes that every student should receive that life-saving lesson prior to graduation. In places like Seattle where this type of policy has been mandated survival rates from cardiac arrest have risen to above 60 percent, while in Hawaii survival rates remain below the national average of approximately 30 percent. Imagine if every high school student going forward learned CPR in school how many more people in our communities could be prepared to save a life.

On June 8, 2012, Gwyneth Griffin, a 7th grader at A. G. Wright Middle School, collapsed in cardiac arrest.  Several critical minutes passed before her father, Joel, reached her. CPR had not been initiated. “There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to,” said Joel. Gwyneth’s mother, Jennifer, stated “It was after the results of the MRI, 3 weeks later, that we decided no one should ever have to go through what we were going through. What became evident was the need for CPR training in schools."

While the couple immersed themselves in caring for Gwyneth at the hospital, friends and family were busy back home in Stafford learning CPR. Joel and Jennifer’s daughter, Gwyneth, passed away Monday, July 30, 2012, not from her cardiac arrest, but because CPR was not initiated within the first few minutes. Their home community mobilized, and the Griffins report that by the end of the summer of 2012 nearly 500 people had become certified in CPR.

Jennifer and Joel involved themselves in working with the American Heart Association and their legislators to establish legislation that would assure every student was trained in CPR before graduation.  Through their efforts and perseverance, and in honor of their daughter, Gwyneth’s Law was passed in Virginia in the 2013 General Assembly session.  The law has three components: teacher training in CPR, AED availability in schools, and CPR training as a graduation requirement.

Here’s a look at how the Griffin's determination led to success:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Since passage of the Virginia law, the Griffins have continued to work to help other states accomplish the same goal.  They visited Maryland legislators during the 2014 General Assembly session, and were instrumental in getting a similar law passed there.  They hope their story will help inspire others to support CPR training in schools as well. 

The legacy that Gwyneth leaves behind is one that will save countless lives. Help honor her legacy. This quick video will help you become CPR smart (and might get you dancing too):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGpp6mStfY

 

Gwyneth Griffin

 

Special thanks to You’re the Cure advocate/writer Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for help crafting this story.

 

Written by Shannon Chamizo

My name is Shannon Chamizo, I am a You’re The Cure advocate and a survivor. My sons and I became involved with the American Heart Association after I survived both cardiac arrest and a heart attack before I was even 40.  If you would like to read more about my experience click here.

I survived these two events in large part because of the heroic actions of my teenaged sons, Avery and Alston. Since then, my family has used those experiences to make healthy lifestyle improvements and to add formal lifesaving skills to their knowledge.

After having those health issues, American Heart Association Hawaii Division Board Member and American Medical Response (AMR) Training Director Dory Clisham (also a You’re the Cure advocate) took me under her wing and got both my sons and me certified in the use of CPR, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and First Aid using American Heart Association training (AMR is an American Heart Association certified training center). After completing that training in July, 2013, Dory also asked me if I might be interested in further training, and I responded yes.

This year on May 22, I completed American Heart Association Healthcare Provider and Basic Life Support (BLS) Instructor training and am now certified to train other professionals.

In addition, I have assisted at a community training event at Kaimuki High School for the Junior ROTC students by sharing our family story.  It was inspiring to see how our story added to the motivation that the students had to learn lifesaving skills.

My family and I want to continue to participate in community training events to help others learn. My younger son, Avery, is also interested in becoming not only an instructor, but also pursuing a career as a firefighter after graduating from high school next year.

We also want to help the AHA in its efforts to work with the Hawaii Department of Education and Board of Education to add CPR as a mandatory part of high school health curriculum. Since health is a required course, adding simple and quick ‘hands-only’ CPR training to those classes would insure that every new Hawaii high school graduate would possess the skills to save the life of a friend or loved one who experiences health problems like I had.

Katarina Weigel is sophomore-nursing student at Pace University. She’s also a sudden cardiac arrest survivor and alive thanks to CPR.

"I don’t look like the face of sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, any time. The faces of sudden cardiac arrest will surprise you," said Weigel.

When Katarina collapsed on the volleyball court in 2010 at the age of 15, it wasn’t the first time her family had witnessed a sudden cardiac arrest. Her uncle had suffered sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 16 in 1984 – and didn’t survive. When doctors discovered that Katarina had an inherited arrhythmia called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, or CPVT, all of Katarina’s family were tested for gene that causes this condition. Today, Katarina, her brother and her mother all have implantable defibrillators.

"I see silver linings everywhere," Katarina Weigel said. "Because of my sudden cardiac arrest, we know why my uncle died, something our family has always wondered about. My sudden cardiac arrest has potentially saved my mother’s, my brother’s, and my life. I’m so grateful that my coaches started CPR when I collapsed four years ago."

Katarina is now sharing her story in the hopes that it will help save others. She recently joined volunteers at the CPR rally in Albany to call for the passage of the CPR in Schools bill.

"I do not let my cardiac arrest define me; however, I do let it empower me to push for CPR in schools and advocate on behalf of the American Heart Association. This bill is very near and dear to my heart. 16 states have made it mandatory to have their students learn CPR before they graduate. There can never be too many lifesavers, so why not add New York State to the list? Because of the proper training of my coaches and their quick response my life was saved. I am not a statistic, but I am a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest because of CPR."

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