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It was on one of the busiest streets in New York City that 15-year-old student Teresa started to choke.

A small group of students had just finished their tour of New York’s popular Metropolitan Museum of Art, and they decided to grab a quick bite from a 5th Avenue hot dog vendor.

“After she took her first bite, she looked like she was going to be sick to her stomach,” said Kaitlyn, also 15-years-old.

“I was coughing, but then I realized no air was coming in and out,” recalled Teresa. “I couldn’t talk.”

“She mouthed to me: ‘I’m choking,’” said Kaitlyn, “and then she bent over for me to give her the Heimlich Manoeuvre.”

The two girls and their handful of friends said they were shocked – no one was stopping to help them.

Kaitlyn immediately started the Heimlich Manoeuvre, and after several abdominal thrusts she was able to dislodge the food.

“Kaitlyn saved my life,” said Teresa. “Something really severe could have happened if she wasn’t there.”

Both Kaitlyn and Teresa had recently taken the ACT High School CPR Program at All Saints Secondary School in Whitby, Ontario. They said the incident made them realize how important it is that all students receive the program.

“If I hadn’t learned it in high school I would have completely blanked,” said Kaitlyn.

“I heard some schools don’t even have the program and I was shocked – that is scary,” she continued. “If I didn’t learn how to do this at school, my friend would have been a goner.”

“We were just a bunch of teenage girls hanging out,” said Teresa. “But the maturity Kaitlyn had to be able to step up and take the responsibility to save my life is incredible. So many people just walked right by.”

“This program is something it doesn’t hurt to know, but it will hurt if you don’t know it,” said Teresa.

Jaimie Dion, the girls’ phys-ed teacher, said she was “shocked and thrilled” when she heard the news.

“Kaitlyn was basically in tears as she told me the story,” said Jaimie. “I was stunned.”

“I was just beaming when I heard that she had the mindset and the confidence to be able to do that on a sidewalk in New York City,” Jamie said. “This is living proof of the reason why we need to teach this program.”

The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible in All Saints Secondary School thanks to the generous support of ACT’s community and provincial partners. ACT’s 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.

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.

Photo credit: AJ Groen / Metroland