Researchers are turning to high schools for help after a new study suggested Toronto has one of the lowest rates of bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the western world, leading to low survival rates in cardiac arrest.
The study by Rescu, a Canadian research collective that looks at issues around cardiac trauma, discovered that only 27 per cent of cardiac arrests in the Greater Toronto Area lead to CPR from bystanders. The rate is as high as 47 per cent in Vancouver and Seattle.
The researchers are hoping young people can improve lukewarm CPR trends, which have remained relatively unchanged in the past decade.
"We all learned how to use the green and blue recycling boxes because the school said you had to have garbage-less lunches," said Dr. Laurie Morrison, the director of Rescu.
"We thought maybe we [could]change behaviour by making sure every Grade 9 student graduates with at least the knowledge of doing CPR and with the comfortableness in using an [automated external defibrillator]"
The Toronto District School Board requires CPR to be taught in the Grade 9 curriculum, but the study says almost half of the schools do not. It also says that 185 cardiac arrests happened at Toronto schools from 2007 to 2009, but only 36 per cent resulted in CPR.
Rebecca Hettege-Dona, a 15-year-old student at Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute, was required to learn CPR for two weeks in Grade 9 as part of the physical education course.
"We got books and practiced on dummies. I think it was too short to get comfortable with [CPR]" she said.
Ms. Hettege-Dona passed after performing CPR on a mannequin and completing a written test. However, she is unsure if she would do the same on a person.
"I don't think I would do CPR because I really don't remember it that much. I wouldn't want to kill the person by accident."
A person's brain shuts down four minutes after a cardiac arrest, whereas the average time it takes paramedics to arrive is more than five minutes.
According to the study, if bystanders use CPR, and defibrillators if they are available, the chances of survival increase by 75 per cent.
"Doing it incorrectly is better than doing nothing," Dr. Morrison said.
Wesley Jorisch, a 16-year-old rugby player at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, collapsed last month during a game, but was revived by paramedics after showing no vital signs.
Dr. Morrison says the rugby team performed chest compressions before the paramedics arrived, which likely saved his life.
CPR certification costs time and money, but Dr. Morrison said school boards should not be deterred from teaching their students.
"You don't need to certify your students in CPR. What you need to do is teach them all uniformly and show that anybody can use a [defibrillator]"Report Typo/Error
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