Quebec teacher steps in when a stranger collapses

Late one afternoon in February, Joël had just finished teaching CPR to his last Phys Ed class of the day. Needing to run errands on his way home, he headed for the local grocery store.

While there, Joël suddenly saw a woman had collapsed and was surrounded by a group of bystanders who were trying to help. The woman appeared to be semi-conscious and had muscular spasms; Joël immediately stepped in to assist. “I stepped in to provide head support. She wasn’t fully alert, so I kept her awake by asking her questions.”

Responding to an emergency is one of the key components of the ACT High School CPR and AED Program, which was established in 2009 at Ecole secondaire de Grande-Rivière, in Aylmer, QC. “For the past few weeks, I had been teaching the steps to secure the area and responsiveness to ensure students are calm when responding to an emergency situation.”


“When I initially approached the person, I took the time to assess the scene. I saw that no one knew what to do. When a paramedic student offered to assist, I ensured that someone called 9-1-1 and I continued to stabilize the woman’s head until paramedics arrived. I simply did what I teach my students to do: take action and help.”

Joël is a supporter of the ACT Program at his school, which was made possible with provincial-level support from the Government of Quebec, and from ACT’s health partners AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi.

“The ACT Program is an accessible program and it’s very rewarding to know you are empowering an entire grade level to save lives – in our case, that’s 200 to 300 new first responders for our community each year!”

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR and Defibrillator training in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate training equipment and teacher training to schools, and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Over 2.6 million youth have been trained in CPR by their teachers through this lifesaving program to date.

Aylmer teen saves brother from choking

Seventeen-year-old Mathew never thought he would use the training he received through the ACT High School CPR Program – but on a night he wasn’t even supposed to be home, he performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre to save his brother’s life.

“I never thought in my life I would use it,” said Mathew, who attends Darcy McGee High School in Gatineau, Quebec. “But after getting trained – something actually happened.”

One evening, after Mathew returned home from his sister’s engagement party earlier than expected, his older brother Josh started to choke on his dinner.

“He started coughing,” said Mathew. “I thought it was normal – so I went to get him some water…but then he started turning red and flailing his arms around.”

“He grabbed my arms and put them around him,” said Mathew, adding that he suddenly realized he needed to perform abdominal thrusts to help dislodge the food.

“I did the Heimlich five times, and on the fifth time he spit out a big chunk of beef,” said Mathew.

“I guess I was nervous,” said Mathew. “I didn’t know if I’d actually be able to save him.”

But Josh says Mathew moved very quickly to save him.

“He was up in two seconds, and he had never done it before on a real person,” said Josh.

“At first he was not hitting the right spot – but that was okay,” said Josh. “He just went a little lower and after two more thrusts it flew out of my mouth.”

“I was supposed to be at my sister’s engagement party,” said Mathew. “I was really happy I hadn’t stayed.”

Both Mathew and Josh have since become strong advocates for young people taking the ACT High School CPR Program.

“Don’t think twice about it,” said Josh. “If that was a situation where I was watching a person choke, they probably would have died in my arms because I never had the same training as Mathew.”

“My brother was able to save me because of this program,” said Josh.

“The training is so important,” said Mathew. “Anyone could be in that situation at any time – and there aren’t always other people around to do the Heimlich for you.”

Mathew’s phys-ed teacher Jessica said she was amazed when she heard Mathew had saved his brother’s life.

“We were all pretty proud of him,” said Jessica, of the other teachers at the school. “I was glad I had provided the training.”

Jessica said that while the ACT High School CPR Program does empower young people to save lives – it also looks great on their resume.

“It is great because you may one day save someone’s life,” she said. But it can also be great for your career. It is a good thing to put on your resume.”

“I think this is a life skill that everyone should have at any age level,” she continued. “I know that sometimes things get cut in phys-ed, but this is a program that should always be mandatory and should always be taught.”

The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible in Darcy McGee High School thanks to the generous support of ACT’s Quebec Partners: J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Quebec Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports and Sun Life Financial. 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.