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On a February afternoon in Port Coquitlam, B.C., P.E. teachers Brad and John were busy leading their students through planned activities. The students were busy assembling into teams when suddenly, one of their classmates collapsed face down on the floor.

Aaron, 14, had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

In those critical first minutes, Brad and John reacted quickly by turning him over to do the first assessment: Aaron was unresponsive and not breathing. Both asked for someone to call 9-1-1 immediately and they were soon joined by two additional teachers. Together, the four teachers worked quickly to save the Grade 9 student’s life.

“I landmarked, began CPR and got a rhythm going,” says Vern, who is the Head of the P.E. Department. “While I was doing CPR, I was completely calm, thinking about the counts… I knew that something had to be done.”

They saved my life.

While John administered artificial respiration, Casey brought the school’s defibrillator and was preparing it for use. “The first time the AED analyzed Aaron, it advised us to push the shock button,” says Casey. “His pulse came back after the first shock.” They continued compressions until paramedics arrived.

In the hospital, Aaron’s family explained to him what had happened: “They told me that I collapsed in P.E. and the teachers performed CPR,” explains Aaron. “They saved my life.” Remarkably, he returned to school just two weeks later.

The teachers attribute their feeling of preparedness to the training they had received, as well as the practice that comes with training new students each year through the ACT High School CPR Program. “It was no problem doing the compressions,” says Vern. “The incident put an emphasis on how important it is – to our students, to me,” explains Brad. “It’s a life skill that everybody should have.”

The ACT High School CPR Program was set up at Terry Fox Secondary School in 2006, thanks to generous support that enabled the donation of mannequins, teacher training and curriculum resources. The lead community partner in Port Coquitlam was First West Foundation (formerly known as Envision Credit Union Charitable Foundation). Provincial partners of the program are Emergency and Health Services Commission and British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS).

ACT’s national health partners supporting the program in Port Coquitlam, throughout the province and across Canada are AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi. 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 and AED training 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 2.6 million youth have been trained in CPR by their teachers through this lifesaving program to date.