When Peter McKenzie, a Toronto physical education teacher, trains his Grade 9 students in CPR he tells them, “I never thought I’d have to use these skills, but I did, on three different people.”
At the right place at the right time, Peter was able to use his life-saving skills and knowledge on three distinct occasions.
“I was playing ultimate Frisbee off the school property with a group of people when a player collapsed on the field next to ours” remembers Peter who quickly assessed the situation and realized the man was unconscious and not breathing. As another bystander dialled 911 and started CPR, Peter ran to get the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
“AEDs are very simple to use with even the slightest amount of training. Knowing that it is impossible to harm a person by using an AED incorrectly has given me the confidence to use an AED for three different medical emergencies,” he says.
After a single shock the man regained consciousness before the arrival of the paramedics. “It was truly miraculous,” says Peter. “My biggest contribution was recognizing one of the signs of cardiac arrest and retrieving the AED as fast as I could,” he adds.
The second life saved was that of a student during a game of lunch hour basketball. A player ran over to Peter to let him know that one of the students, had collapsed. “I could tell he was unresponsive as soon as I saw him on the ground,” says Peter. “I called the office and told them to dial 911 and to send the AED to the gym.” Peter alternated between CPR and shocks until the arrival of the paramedics. The student is now alive and well because Peter knew what to do.
On another occasion, a student had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during his physical education class. “He just collapsed on the gym floor,” Peter recalls. He immediately prepared the AED for use and proceeded with CPR. Despite all efforts to resuscitate him, the student never regained consciousness. Looking back on the tragic event, Peter says, “It has been difficult to cope with this tragedy and to witness the family’s grief but I feel some comfort in knowing that I did everything I could,
Speaking of the importance of high school CPR training for his students, Peter says, “Teaching CPR and AED skills empowers my students to feel they can help in even the most serious of medical emergencies. By using these skills they may one day save the life of a loved one. Even if their attempts at resuscitation are unsuccessful, they may at least take comfort in knowing they didn’t stand idly by but did all they could to save a life.”
The ACT High School CPR and AED program was set up in Greenwood Secondary School in Toronto, in partnership with provincial partners, the Government of Ontario, Hydro One and The Ontario Trillium Foundation, and ACT’s national health partners, AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi Canada.
The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing free CPR and AED training programs in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins and teacher training to schools, and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Over 3.2 million youth have been trained in CPR by their teachers through this lifesaving program to date.