Skip to main content

When special education teacher Debbie Kilmer heard about the ACT High School CPR Program, her mind flashed back to a time when she was able to save a stranger’s life.

“I was in a restaurant and a gentleman started to choke,” said Debbie. “Everyone just froze, and all I can remember hearing was this woman screaming: ‘can someone help my husband?!'”

“I snapped into action and did several abdominal thrusts,” said Debbie, who had been consistently updating her own first aid and CPR training since she began teaching. “When I dislodged the steak, he collapsed and appeared unconscious. After I realized he was breathing, I put him in the recovery position and continued to monitor his vital signs.”

“He was much larger than me,” Debbie continued. “Many people might be intimidated by a large size difference but after three attempts I was successful.”

“Giving a person the potential to survive such a horrible accident is a wonderful feeling,” said Debbie. “What I think was most instrumental in pushing me to bring the ACT Program to our alternative education students was realizing that there were so many people in the restaurant who didn’t know what to do.”

When Debbie heard about high school CPR training in Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, she contacted ACT to ensure that the board’s Centres for Individual Studies, which includes three alternative schools, would receive the same training and materials as the mainstream students.

“ACT was not only able to provide us with a total of 45 mannequins, but also gave us 15 infant mannequins,” said Debbie.

“I am very passionate about alternative education,” said Debbie, “and to empower our students with lifesaving skills is so tremendously valuable.”

“Not only will our students be able to react in an emergency, but they can now put CPR training on their resume, which will enhance their overall employability,” she added.

Beyond the positive influence that the ACT Program has had on her students’ self-esteem, Debbie said she also recently heard of a CIS student who was able to apply his skills in an emergency.

“A family was having supper one night and a neighbour came in and asked if someone knew CPR,” said Debbie. “There was an infant who wasn’t breathing, and one of our students was able to react and assist.”

“I was just so proud of the student having the courage to actually act,” said Debbie. “His mother contacted us and thanked us for providing this training.”

ACT presented Debbie with a Community Champion Award in 2008 for her continued support and passion for the program.

“Teachers are vital links in the chain of survival when delivering the CPR program to their students,” said Sandra Clarke, Executive Director of the ACT Foundation. “Debbie has worked tirelessly to bring CPR skills and knowledge to her alternative education students and her advocacy has ensured these youth are armed with lifesaving skills and knowledge they can apply to their everyday lives.”

But Debbie didn’t stop at her own schools and students. She also influenced her 25-year-old daughter, Jennifer Kilmer, to follow in her footsteps. Not only is Jennifer a teacher, but she is also passionate about the importance of CPR training.

“I studied teaching at the University of Ottawa, and in one of our classes we decided that we wanted to do a training session to make ourselves more employable,” said Jennifer. “I decided to take the initiative to organize a CPR training session. About 26 of my colleagues were trained.”

“People were extremely excited that I brought the program forward with ACT,” said Jennifer. “We empowered ourselves to feel confident that when we go into the classroom, if there is an emergency situation, we will be able to deal with it.”

Debbie said she is very proud that her daughter is just as excited about student CPR training as she is.

“By bringing the ACT Program in to the secondary curriculum, it spreads valuable information and skills to more people than ever before,” said Debbie. “In the past this kind of training would just be for educators, lifeguards and so forth. Now it is available to high school students, and we’ve taken a step even further by providing it for alternative education.”

“This is my own way to pay it forward,” said Debbie, with a laugh.

The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible in Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board’s Centres for Individual Studies thanks to the generous support of ACT’s partners. ACT’s lead community partner is TransCanada and provincial partners are 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. The Peterborough Examiner volunteered to print the student manuals at no cost for this school.

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.