Having worked with an ambulance company in the rural area of Prescott-Russell for about three decades, Rene Berthiaume has been eyewitness to the benefits of CPR training and the tragic results of its absence.
Berthiaume says that when he first started as an ambulance attendant about three decades ago “in the case of heart attacks, most of the time the patient was dead by the time we got there.” Over time, he saw some improvement. “We saw that where CPR courses were started, saves were made.”
In 1995 Dr. Justin Maloney, medical director at the Base Hospital of Ottawa-Carleton, recommended that Berthiaume, then the owner of Noel ambulance services, take the initiative to start up the ACT high school CPR program. He jumped at the opportunity.
“In a rural area it takes longer for ambulances to get there. We as a community have to find solutions,” says Berthiaume.
Soon, thanks to his fluent bilingualism he had English and French school boards working together to set up CPR programs at all eight of the area’s high schools.
With help from his brother Yves Berthiaume, then Vice-President of Optimist International, the schools received the money they needed for mannequins to launch the program. Berthiaume says representatives from the Optimist Club are delighted with the program, and make a point of joining ambulance staff in celebrating the graduation of every CPR class. In fact, just this year the school’s CPR instructor resuscitated a teacher who suffered a cardiac arrest at the local Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute.
The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible in Prescott-Russell thanks to the generous support of ACT’s community partners, les Clubs Optimistes du district Est ontarien; The Ontario Ambulance Operators’ Association Inc., Services d’ambulances Noël and Hawkesbury Association of Ambulance Attendants. Provincial partners include the Government of Ontario, Hydro One and The Ontario Trillium Foundation. Mannequins and curriculum resources were donated to the school and the teachers were trained as CPR instructors for their students.
Also responsible are ACT’s core partners, companies in the research-based pharmaceutical industry: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada, Pfizer Canada and sanofi-aventis. They provide ACT’s sustaining funding and are committed to the Foundation’s national goal of promoting health and empowering Canadians to save lives.
The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins, teacher training, manuals and other materials to schools and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Teachers teach CPR to their students as a regular part of the curriculum. More than 900,000 youth have been trained in CPR through this lifesaving program to date.