Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Hurley freshmen learn to save lives


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Hurley - The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires CPR training but the Hurley K-12 School also benefits from a teacher who brings years of practical experience to the role.

The CPR training is a unit of the freshman health class that is taught by Aaron Bender, a social studies teacher at Hurley School who took over the health class and teaches compression only CPR with defibrillator training about four years ago. He brings 15 years of experience as a volunteer first responder with the Saxon-Gurney First Responders.

"It's a real-world thing that they need," Bender said of the importance of learning life-saving first-aid skills as people suffer from cardiac arrest more and more even with young people now. "It can happen anywhere, anytime."

Bender shares stories of his real-life experiences in saving lives as a volunteer. He wants to relate that it's always "nerve racking" but it helps if the responder understands he or she is doing the best that they can in the situation.

"I always try to remind them of that," Bender said.

For many years cardiopulmonary resuscitation training included alternating compression and breath methods as the heart and lungs function interdependently. In more recent years, however, the focus has shifted to compression-only CPR training that is learned on training mannequins in the school auditorium.

"I teach the breaths as well but it would be better if they have a valve mask of some kind just like everybody should if they are going to give rescue breaths," Bender said. 

Medical science and the health industry now emphasize that compressions alone will keep the blood flowing throughout the body to all of the essential organs and the brain, he said. This is more vital as a lifesaving opportunity, he said.

Breaths are still okay, and it doesn't create any problems, but the studies show that compression-only CPR is a solid method to keep blood pumping through the body when the heart is not working on its own, he said.

The CPR section of the health class also includes training on the automated external defibrillator (AED), a small and portable battery operated device that can determine if an individual is undergoing cardiac arrhythmias or pulseless ventricular tachycardia. The AED readings determine if the operator should apply an electrical shock in an attempt to stop restore an effective heart rhythm.

"We want the students to have understanding of the AED as well, so that they are ready to go and grab it and attach the pads and be able to bring somebody back if need be," Bender said.

The AED devices are required to be present in all public buildings and can also be found in many private businesses and restaurants, he said. The more people who are trained to follow the simple instructions the more likely it is that someone will know to look for one when it's needed and will be more comfortable using it to help save a life.

"We're a tremendous rural community and some of these kids live 20 to 25 minutes away from any ambulance service getting there," Bender said. "So, if there's even a chance there's an AED somewhere in their community building or somewhere nearby that they can get their hands on fast, maybe it will help them."

The AED is a little more reassuring to teach because it provides information on the condition of the individual and the recommended action. The AED will indicate if a shock is needed or not.

"It talks to you," Bender said. "It is reading the patient and it is giving you a little more comfort and some of them even help you with the rhythm of the CPR that you're giving with the chest compressions - so it's a nice tool to have."

The first aid unit requires a level of maturity, he said. These are medical conditions that people may encounter and it's important "not to freak out or run away from it," he said.

The teaching re enforces the importance of staying calm to help remember the training and hopefully it will all come together for them, he said. It helps to understand that someone in cardiac arrest is basically "gone" and would not survive without someone applying CPR. 

"They won't do damage and are only going to possibly save them if they are following the steps that they have been taught," Bender said.

The heath class instruction is not the same as a certification from the American Heart Association which requires several more hours. It does provide entry level skills that can allow anyone to become a potential life-saving Good Samaritan, he said.  

It is a goal of the program that some will be inspired to take that next step for a medical certification, Bender said. It is also a goal to inspire more to join as a volunteer responder or firefighter for their community, he said.

"We're all volunteers and are always turning over as gentlemen get older in the fire department and the EMS services," Bender said. "We always need more young blood to come in and help us with those things."

Bender also coaches volleyball and teaches psychology and personal finance at the Hurley School, said Melissa Oja, the middle school and high school principal.

"He's our electives king," Oja said.