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Illinois State Lawmaker Works to Require Defibrillator Training in High School Health Classes

George Laman lost his daughter because no one used the device that could have saved her life. Now he’s working with some state lawmakers to make sure the situation doesn’t happen again.

Lauren Laman, 18, was a member of the St. Charles North High School drill team when she suddenly collapsed in practice.

“Lauren was our baby, she was our youngest, and she was just getting ready to graduate,” said George Laman an experienced firefighter and former paramedic.

English: Cardiac Science Powerheart G3 Automat...
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Laman said he thought it was just an unfortunate incident.

“Then I got a copy of the police report and realized that wasn’t the case,” he said.

Laman said there was an automated external defibrillator at the school, and someone actually went to get the portable device. He said a certified athletic trainer, gym teacher, some adults and other students were around, but still the device wasn’t used.

When the paramedics arrived almost 13 minutes later, they used the defibrillator, but it was too late.

Since the incident happened in February 2008, Laman and his family have become the driving force behind ensuring no one else goes through what they did. Laman has been working with Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago) on getting House Bill 3724 passed, which would require CPR and AED training for high school students in health education classes, and also be a prerequisite for graduation. 12 states already have a law like this, according to the American Heart Association.

“The bottom line is, God only knows if it would have restarted [Lauren’s] heart, but the fact that they didn’t take a crack at it is very frustrating,” Burke said

The Laman family testified at the proposed bill’s hearing March 5, which passed the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee 11-2, without the graduation requirement.

Burke said the amendment made the bill an easier selling point to some education groups, like the Illinois Education Association, which has opposed the legislation.

Alex Meixner, director of government relations for the American Heart Association, said there are various influential factors, like high cholesterol, that create a higher risk for sudden cardiac arrest, but it can still happen to anyone.

Meixner said that according to the association’s numbers, there are 420,000 incidents of cardiac arrest that occur outside of a hospital each year in the U.S. alone. He said a bill like this is necessary to try to get that number down.

“The proof is as clear as day, we know the survival for out of hospital cardiac arrest is somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 percent,” Meixner said.

Part of the problem is people are intimidated by the defibrillator, but he said using the defibrillator makes a huge difference in the likelihood of survival, Meixner said.

He said the device takes a measurement of the victims heart rate, and checks if they would benefit from a shock, if they wouldn’t, then the defibrillator doesn’t administer it.

“There is no chance of someone using an AED and having it back fire,” Meixner said.

If the bill gets through the House, Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) has already agreed to pick it up.

Mulroe said that for him, it boils down to, if schools are going to have a machine in the building, then they need to make sure they have some one that knows how to use it.

“Otherwise it’s a waste of time,” Mulroe said.

If the bill becomes law, it would take effect July 1.


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