Stuff: NZ authority on resuscitation pushing for schools to teach life-saving skills

The Government is being urged to follow its British counterpart and make CPR training part of the school curriculum.

From 2020, all English secondary school leavers will be taught how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), learn the purpose of defibrillators, and to give basic treatment for common injuries.

The New Zealand Resuscitation Council, led by chief executive Kevin Nation, said establishing something similar here would ensure a generation of children became confident in their ability to save lives.

“This is an internationally established, common sense policy, and with the government already reviewing our educational curriculum, we believe this is the perfect time to discuss teaching CPR in every school.”

Sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest was the third-leading cause of death in industrialised nations, and ischaemic heart disease was the second most prevalent cause of death in New Zealand.

​A professional response by paramedics and physicians, on average, takes at least five minutes to arrive, but the brain begins to die after three to five minutes.

In most cases, bystanders who witness such a collapse can at least perform basic chest compressions, the key procedure to protect the brain from dying.

Last week, members of the public helped keep a 17-year-old boy alive by performing CPR after he went into cardiac arrest while driving.

About 12 per cent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims in New Zealand survived following emergency CPR.

While the figure was an improvement on past years, the council was confident the country could do better.

Nation believed just two hours of teaching annually, beginning at 12 years old, would be enough to reach not only the children themselves but their wider communities.

“Kids come home buzzing to share what they learn, and it could be their siblings or parents who then go on to save a life.”

Currently, about half-a-million Kiwi children have been taught lifesaving skills through the St John in Schools programme, but it was up to individual schools to sign up to.

Under the Resuscitation Council’s proposal, all schoolchildren would be taught.

The council’s communications and engagement advisor Alastair Reith said the plan didn’t have to be costly, with teachers able to be trained rather than the children directly. They would then pass on the learning to their pupils.

The Ministry of Health was approached for comment on the proposal, but was unable to provide a response by the time of publication.

Originally published in the Dominion Post.

Radio NZ: Cardiac arrest survivor backs call for CPR to be taught in schools

A man whose friends did CPR on him in the playground when his heart stopped as a boy says all schools should teach the life-saving technique.

Kenneth Yew has added his voice to calls from the Resuscitation Council for the government to introduce CPR as a compulsory part of the curriculum, as British schools will do from 2020.

Mr Yew had a cardiac arrest out of the blue 11 years ago when he was a 16-year-old at Hillcrest High School in Hamilton.

He was playing with mates, fell down, and never got up.

His friends ran to get the school nurse, called the ambulance, then took turns helping the nurse with CPR and defibrillation by following her instructions.

The ambulance took 13 minutes to reach them – and just as it was pulling up Mr Yew’s heart was shocked back into life.

When done properly, CPR chest compressions are difficult for one person to maintain strongly for an extended period of time. Experts recommend rescuers take turns as the group that saved Mr Yew did, so they can ensure the compressions are strong and effective.

In hospital, doctors warned Mr Yew’s family the 13 minutes his heart had been stopped could have caused permanent brain damage. But they were amazed when he woke from the coma and was fine.

They told him the CPR saved him by keeping his brain healthy while his heart was stopped, and early defibrillation meant less time with his heart not circulating blood.

“I was just really grateful they were there and had someone to talk them through what to do,” Mr Yew said.

He believes widespread knowledge of CPR, familiarity with defibrillators and first aid skills could save lives.

“I’d rather equip these kids with the tools to be able to know how to react in those situations.

“When they need it, it could be their family member, it could be another friend. I don’t think they’re too young; I don’t think it should be a debate about whether it should be in the curriculum – these are life-saving skills.”

After a lot of tests, doctors diagnosed Mr Yew with Long QT syndrome, a defect in the timing of his heart’s rhythm. It makes his heart vulnerable, and they installed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator into his chest, designed to automatically shock his heart back into life if it ever stops again.

Mr Yew still keeps in touch with the three friends who helped save his life.

“I still thank them. We still get together for drinks.”

Resuscitation Council executive committee member Jonathan Webber said a small amount of time and money invested in classes at school could have a big pay-off.

“These skills can actually be done by school-aged children. Any attempt at resuscitation is better than none,” Mr Webber said.

“The CPR can double, if not triple, that person’s chance of survival, and a lot of cardiac arrests occur in the home, so there’s a high chance the person you do CPR on is someone you know – a family member or neighbour, as opposed to someone you just come across on the street.

“It just makes sense to implant these skills at a young age.”

In New Zealand, five people each day have cardiac arrests outside of hospital, and only 13 percent survive to be discharged from hospital.

“If more people were trained, if we had better access to community defibrillators, and we had a whole population trained and ready to respond, then we believe those numbers of survivors could actually be improved,” Mr Webber said.

The Resuscitation Council has had “initial discussions” with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education about their hopes of introducing CPR to schools.

Mr Webber said they would like to see class sets of teaching mannequins available and teacher training modules made available, so teachers can learn the skills to teach their students.

Originally published on Radio NZ.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much of a difference could it make?

It could save many lives. Roughly five people a day suffer a cardiac arrests and only about 12 – 13% of them survive to hospital discharge. We are lucky in our country to have a reasonably high level of bystander CPR assistance, with help provided to the victim by people nearby in around 72% of cases. In other parts of the world this rate can fall to 10% or less. Our willingness to muck in and help out those in need is a national trait to be proud of. More, however, can be done, and with adequate training and sufficient access to resources such as defibrillators the rate of survival can be significantly increased.

Could it be dangerous for children if they do it wrong?

No, CPR training is safe and supervised. Chest compressions are practiced on dummies, not other children! Mouth to mouth can be practiced using a purpose built disposable CPR mask, which prevents the transfer of germs. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which are used to deliver an electric shock to restart a heart following cardiac arrest, provide clear audio instructions on how to use them properly. The shock is only delivered if the person in need requires it; the machine can sense whether this is the case.

Great idea, but will it be expensive?

Getting first aid and CPR training as an individual can be costly, whereas providing it in schools as part of the core curriculum is much more cost effective. When teachers themselves are trained in CPR, they can pass this learning on to their students as part of existing time slots for health education. Training manikins can be pooled between different schools and shared as required. The organisations involved are happy to support and advise the Ministry of Education on resourcing and any other requirements, and we are confident the economies of scale involved will make this the most affordable way to provide CPR training to New Zealanders.

What’s this campaign all about?

The Kids Save Lives campaign brings together a range of NZ healthcare organisations, who are committed to creating a new generation of lifesavers.

We urge the NZ government to rise to the standard recently set by English schools, and teach children first aid and CPR as a core part of the health and physical education curriculum.

A generation of children confident in their ability to save lives can have a tremendous impact. We will all benefit from a safer, more productive society with reduced healthcare costs.

Two hours teaching annually, beginning at 12 years old, is enough to reach not only the children themselves but their wider communities.

Sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in industrialized nations, and ischaemic heart disease is the second most prevalent cause of death in our country.

A professional response by paramedics and physicians generally takes at least five minutes to arrive, and the brain starts to die after 3-5 minutes.

In most cases, bystanders who witness such a collapse can perform at least basic chest compressions, the key procedure to protect the brain from dying.

Approximately 12% of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims in New Zealand survive following emergency CPR.

This figure is an improvement upon the past, but we are confident New Zealand can do better.