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It was a Tuesday, and just like during any other lunch hour, Frédéric, 17, and Miguel, 16, were having a bite to eat with their friends in their high school cafeteria. “I was talking to one of my friends while chewing a large piece of chicken. I started to laugh. As I swallowed, the food got stuck and I could not breathe anymore,” recalls Miguel.

At first, his friends thought it was a joke. They quickly realized the situation was serious when they saw Miguel’s face change colour. Unsure of what to do, one of his friends called out for help. It is at that moment that Frédéric turned around and stepped in to help Miguel.

“I stood behind Miguel and I placed my hands on his abdomen. I knew what to do because of the training I received in high school,” explains Frédéric. He gave Miguel one strong abdominal thrust, which is all it took for the piece of chicken to pop out of his friend’s mouth. Relieved, Miguel regained his breath.

Things may have turned out differently had I not been there.

Frédéric received CPR training from his physical education teacher, Éric Dallaire, a year before the incident. “It was my first time learning CPR. The course helped me know how to position my hands and what to do. One of my friends has never been trained and so he did not know how to react. Things may have turned out differently had I not been there,” says Frédéric. “During my training, I didn’t think that I was ever going to get to use the skills. Most people think like that, but the reality is, the training can be of use at any time, as anything can happen.”

“Young people are definitely more aware about the importance of this program,” attests Éric Dallaire, adding that the course not only provides to his students the skills they need to save a life, but that it also empowers them with confidence in other aspects of their lives. “Students are more and more interested in learning CPR. For many it allows them to obtain a summer job.”

The ACT CPR High School program was implemented in Frédéric and Miguel’s school, in Saint-Martin-de-Beauce, Quebec, thanks to the support of the Government of Quebec. In 2013, the defibrillation training component was added to the CPR program thanks to Boston Pizza Foundation, AstraZeneca Canada, Pfizer Canada and Sanofi Canada.

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing 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.