Colorado School Nurse Spearheads Cardiac Emergency Response Plan in Her District

Out in a far-flung corner of southwest Colorado sits Moffat Consolidated School District #2, home to the Moffat PreK-12 School Cowboys and Crestone Charter School (K-12). Both schools have a grand total of just over 200 students … combined. “It’s a small community, the town of Moffat has a little over 100 people in it,” says district school nurse Sarah Elchos, MSN, RN. “It’s not really a small town, it’s more frontier.”

With that designation comes challenges, especially in regard to the availability of emergency services. “One is Moffatt and Crestone do not have a nearby hospital. The closest one is 35 minutes away, and Moffat doesn’t have an ambulance service,” Sarah says. In the event of an emergency, the schools have to rely on neighboring towns for help, which can mean a 35-minute wait before lights and sirens reach their front door. “So there really is a need for our people to actually be able to save someone while we wait on the ambulance,” Sarah says. “And we didn’t have a CERP in place.” 

A CERP, or Cardiac Emergency Response Plan, can increase sudden cardiac arrest survival rates by 50 percent or more by enabling a trained lay-responder team — such as teachers — to take action until Emergency Medical Services arrive.

“Through my school email, I got an invitation to a free, online Project Adam webinar from the American Heart Association (AHA) and Children’s Hospital Colorado,” Sarah says. Project Adam is a nonprofit that helps schools establish a CERP through its Heart Safe Schools program.

“They actually have a tool that helped me fast track my plan,” Sarah says. “It had a checklist and explained everything needed for the school CPR/AED progam. It’s a step-by-step guideline. It was exactly what I needed.”

Indeed, Project Adam provides the foundation for schools to plan and develop their own program, including CERP templates, a reference manual and even one-on-one consultation. Everything is customizable, even for schools on the frontier. Also, because of Sarah’s seminar attendance, the district received free mannequins and other educational supplies to teach hands-only CPR and AED training to students.

“I got the CERP written and approved through the superintendent, and she let the school board know,” Sarah says. Through a nurse grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Sarah got the additional hours she needed to work the plan, going from just 20 hours per week to 40.

First, she ordered the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver® CPR/First Aid/AED Training, designed for anyone with limited or no medical training who wants to learn how to give CPR and use an AED in a safe, timely and effective manner. “I wanted us to really be prepared if something happens,” she says. “We had AEDs, and I’m an old ICU nurse, so I wanted to make sure people knew how to use them,” Sarah says. “Initially, I was shocked by the number of ‘Oh, we have an AED?’ questions.”

During the 2020-2021 school year, she used the AHA Heartsaver course to train 19 teachers, as well as a group near and dear to her heart — interested graduating seniors, just in time for them to go off into the world. She also taught hands-only compressions to fourth and fifth graders at the Moffat school.

Toward the end of the school year, it was time for a drill, which proved helpful. Sarah placed a dummy in the front office, and so it began. “The call for help was put out over the walkie-talkies. That’s one thing we immediately identified that we need to do better, make sure the whole school is aware, not just the walkie-talkie users.”

She now awaits the results of her submission to Project Adam for Moffat to be designated as a Heart Safe School. She’s hopeful that the Title 1 school has enough AEDs to qualify, meaning one available in three minutes from anywhere on the facility. Come June, Sarah will be able to apply for a grant to get even more AEDs. “I have everything ready to apply,” she says, in true Sarah style.

“It’s all been well received,” she says. “This was my first time teaching children, and I felt more comfortable starting with the younger classes, then I’ll move on to the older groups. I really want to teach hands-only to middle school up to tenth grade, and I’m hoping I can expand the AHA Heartsaver to eleventh and twelfth grades every other year.”

So what’s been her biggest secret to success? “It’s just perseverance and staying on top of it,” Sarah says. “There’s no need to put a lot of pressure on yourself. Just let it flow.”



Off-duty nurse helps perform CPR to save the life of her friend during ziplining excursion

By Gina Mayfield

For Pamela Seamans, the last weekend in September always brings with it an adventure of sorts for her and her girlfriends, most in their 50s. “We’ve always taken an annual girls’ trip, and we always try to find something that’s a little, you know … edgy,” she says with smile.

September 2022 proved no different with a three-hour drive to the Catskills for an excursion that would involve a little more than just leaf peeping. By day three of the trip, they had already conquered so much, including pedaling their way on rail bikes through the woods of the Catskill Mountains. After breakfast, they made their way to the local ski lodge to hit the zip lines. Music played as they suited up in zipline gear and headed to the top of the mountain on a ski lift for a quick rundown of what to expect. “It was a little unnerving at first because we thought we were going to do some casual ziplining,” Pamela says. “This was a 610-foot cliff.”

Pamela volunteered to go first, soon followed by her friend Mary. “She did something kind of funny. She kind of did this little look, like she passed out. But she came right back around and was talking to us. We wondered what was going on at first, and watched her, but she said nothing about chest pain,” Pamela says. Knowing Mary’s fear of heights – “she’s petrified,” says Pamela – and understanding what a challenge the course was, they chalked it up to a little blip.

“I’m a nurse of over 30 years. I’ve been in critical care. I teach American Heart Association ACLS and BLS. I was watching Mary, and she was really good. So we did lots of challenging things, and we were finally approaching the launch spot of our last zipline,” Pamela says. That’s when they all heard Mary say, “I think I’m going to pass out,” before she fell to the ground.

Pamela ran to her and immediately could see Mary’s ear turning “as blue as blue could be” through her helmet. Pamela turned her over on her back, and initially thought Mary had an aortic aneurysm that had ruptured because her color turned so quickly. If that were the case, there would be little she could do. “I didn’t know,” Pamela says and decided to do what she could. “So I yelled out, ‘I’m starting CPR!’ thinking that I was going to get a bunch of people to go, ‘Oooh, I know that!’” Nobody budged.

She asked if there was an AED and instructed the crowd to call 911. Pamela started CPR and after several minutes made a plea to the crowd, “I am not going to be able to sustain this. I’m going to need somebody to help.” Two people stepped forward, one who had never taken a CPR class and one who did many years earlier. Pamela said to that second person, “That’s fine. I’m going to talk you through everything.” So she did.

“I told him, ‘As soon as I go to do my breaths, I need you to place your hands exactly where mine are,’” Pamela says. “I gave her two breaths and said, ‘Okay start. I’ll adjust you if I need to.’ I count my blessings. He was phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for a better person.”

He continued compressions while Pamela used a pair of bandage scissors to remove Mary’s clothing, just in time for the arrival of the AED. “When we stood clear, she was in a shockable rhythm, so we were able to administer that first shock,” Pamela says. Then came more compressions and breaths, and Mary had a very faint heartbeat. “So we all started rallying and yelling for her – Mary, you can fight! – and you could see things changing,” Pamela says.

One of the local guides was holding Mary’s hand, and he said he could feel her hand getting warm, then she squeezed his hand and he could feel her heartbeat becoming stronger and faster. “The next thing you know, she was trying to sit up,” Pamela says. Just then, the EMTs arrived – 30 minutes after the call went out to 911. “Being a healthcare worker, I have never had anybody I’ve worked on for 30 minutes not only survive, but survive with no deficits,” Pamela says. But that’s what happened to Mary because two people who knew CPR intervened on her behalf.

Because this incident happened “on a mountain in the middle of nowhere,” as Pamela says, Mary had to be transported in the rescue basket of an ATV to a cleared parking lot where a medical helicopter landed to rush her to Albany Medical Center.

Pamela eventually reconnected with the man who helped her, and he shared a moment from their rescue that really stuck with him. Pamela had said to him, “Listen, you are her heart right now, and I’m her lungs. We are the only things that are physically keeping her alive.” The man said to Pamela, “I didn’t realize how important, and what a huge impact CPR truly, truly makes if you do it right.”

Late that night, the girls got a call – from Mary herself. “We all just started screaming,” Pamela recalls. Mary had a widow-maker heart attack, was in the Critical Care Unit, but could see visitors the next morning. With the image of Mary’s blank stare still fresh in her mind, Pamela walked into that hospital room. “As soon as I saw her, that’s when it really, finally sunk in. It was her eyes. She’s got these beautiful, beautiful blue eyes. That was one of the very first telltale signs that told me she was coming back while we were working on her. So when I walked in and I saw her eyes and that blue … . She just started crying when she saw me and vice versa.”

Plans are already in the works for next year’s girls trip – one not quite so “edgy.” In the meantime, they’ve all gotten together with their families to learn CPR, and Pamela is back teaching CPR at her hospital. “I now have a story, a truly awesome story. I tell my classes, ‘Listen, this is a gift this hospital is giving you. I worked on a very good friend of mine for 30 minutes, and it made a difference. I turned her around, and we still have her today. CPR is something you want to know.’”


CPR-Trained Police Officers Save Preemie

By Gina Mayfield

On a busy weekday, as Kansas City Metro Patrol Officers Richard DuChaine and Charles Owen sat in their patrol car finalizing notes on a previous call, another one came in: Medical nature unknown. A 1-month-old was not breathing.

“Before the call was even completely dispatched to us, I already had the car in drive and we were on our way with our lights and sirens. We wanted to make sure the parents could hear us coming,” Officer Owen says. Luckily, they just so happened to be extraordinarily close to the address provided by dispatch. They arrived to find a very cute toddler holding the door open for them.

“It felt like they got here in 30 seconds, but it may have been a minute or two,” says Tajanea Allen, the mother of the baby in distress, Ka’Miyah. “The dispatcher had just said to me, ‘I’m going to direct y’all through CPR,’ but before he even had a chance to do that, Officers DuChaine and Owen were running up to our house.”

Turns out that morning baby Ka’Miyah had woken up in a very lethargic state. “She wouldn’t stay awake or keep her eyes open. Her dad knew something was wrong. His instincts just kicked in. Then she just took a deep breath. That was her last breath,” Tajanea says. They frantically tried calling the local hospital, but it quickly became clear that it would take too long to get through. That’s when they called 911 and the officers took off for their home.

“We ran in and when I saw the baby, I thought it might have been a prank call because she was so small, she looked like a doll,” Officer Owen says. Sure enough, the 1-month-old was a preemie whose original due date was still more than a week away. She weighed just over 4 pounds. Dad handed the baby off to Officer DuChaine. “She was lifeless, she was really gone,” Tajanea says.

Fortunately, the Kansas City Metro Police prepares its officers well with CPR training every year. “We have adult-size manikins and we have manikins for babies, so we’ve actually practiced this scenario numerous times,” Officer DuChaine says. “Once I had the baby in the palm of my hand, I didn’t feel a heartbeat at all. So that’s when I immediately started doing infant chest compressions.”

They wanted to make sure Ka’Miyah absolutely didn’t have anything in her airways. “That was when we could see life start coming back to her,” Officer DuChaine says, noting they got her on her side and checked her airway. “She finally started breathing again, which was a sigh of relief for us.”

Shortly thereafter, EMS arrived on the scene and asked the parents for a car seat to transfer Ka’Miyah to a major children’s hospital. About 2 hours after she arrived, she went into cardiac arrest and ended up in the ICU.

Throughout the day, the officers couldn’t stop thinking about baby Ka’Miyah. “This whole thing got to me because I had a preemie daughter myself, so I knew exactly what those parents were feeling at that point in time. I’ve been in their shoes,” Officer DuChaine says. Eventually they asked their supervisor if they could make a follow-up trip to the hospital and off they went.

That’s where they learned doctors had just diagnosed Ka’Miyah with RSV, a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. She stayed in the hospital for almost a week before making a full recovery and returning home to understandably protective parents.

“I’m very grateful for those officers. Officer DuChaine is a hero,” Tajanea says. “He was one of the first people we allowed to see our daughter after she came home from the hospital. He deserved that.”


Unique Holiday Gift Idea

As the holidays roll around, everyone’s looking for that special gift – something meaningful, worthwhile and of great value. Whether you’re shopping for new parents or grandparents, there’s one gift that works for every member of your family: the gift of CPR.

Considering 73.9 percent of adult cardiac arrests happen in the home, chances are your family members could save someone you all know and love. Every second counts in cardiac arrest, if performed immediately, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival from an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

The AHA’s Community Training Kits make a great gift choice, particularly the CPR Anytime program, which allows your gift recipients to learn basic lifesaving skills in about 20 minutes from the comfort and privacy of their own home or workplace.

Have soon-to-be or new parents in your life? Consider the Infant CPR Anytime Training Kits, which makes it possible for anyone to learn how to perform infant CPR and provide infant choking relief. This kit also makes a great gift for grandparents, babysitters, nannies and anyone who wants to learn lifesaving infant CPR and choking relief skills. The kit is co-branded with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Consider Abby’s story. While in a dressing room trying on clothes, she heard a call come over the store’s radio saying there was someone who didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing. Because she knew CPR, Abby raced to the scene expecting to see an elderly person, but instead found a mother and baby. Abby sprung into action and saved the baby’s life. “You never know when an emergency is going to happen and no one’s going to be there to help. I think anyone could do CPR, could learn that skill. It just gives you a great feeling inside knowing that someone else is living out the rest of their life because of you,” she says.

Another great option is the Adult & Child CPR Anytime Training Kits, which allow anyone to master the basics of adult Hands-Only CPR, child CPR with breaths, adult and child choking relief and general awareness of automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

Justin’s story really drives home the value of this course. On a Friday afternoon, 15-year-old Justin was playing in the backyard with a group of friends when a lacrosse ball hit him on the chest, in the exact location and at the exact millisecond of his heart’s rhythm, causing a condition known as commotio cordis. Thankfully, the kids called for help and a neighbor ran over to start CPR, which kept Justin’s blood circulating to vital organs until paramedics arrived. “This was such a freak accident, it could happen to anyone,” Justin’s mom says. “If our neighbor didn’t know CPR, Justin wouldn’t be here. I encourage everyone to take the time to learn CPR. You could save a life, maybe the life of someone you love.”

The AHA designed both of the kits mentioned in this story as self-directed, 20-minute personal learning programs and as an all-in-one solution that includes everything needed to complete high-quality training anywhere. Skills are taught with the AHA’s research-proven, practice-while-watching technique, which allows participants to practice on a manikin while observing a demonstration of the skills on video. A bilingual (English and Spanish) DVD and user guide come with every kit.

Your gift recipients can refresh their skills as often as needed and even pass along the kit to others once they’re finished with it, so it truly is a gift that keeps on giving.



Be Thankful for Your Family: Thanksgiving Holiday Safety Tips


As you get together with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, ensure it’s a happy – and healthy! – time of year filled with positive memories. Here’s how.

Healthy Holiday Swaps in the Kitchen

This season, try the AHA’s five easy swaps in the kitchen. Don’t worry, all the flavor and festivity are still in the mix!

  • Use herbs and spices such as rosemary, rather than salt, on your turkey.
  • Choose lower sodium broth or stock to make gravy.
  • Whip up some mashed potatoes with low-fat or skim milk and soft tub margarine.
  • Season veggies with herbs and bake, grill or steam them – instead of frying.
  • Swap equal parts no-sugar-added applesauce for butter when baking.

Be Prepared for Minor Injuries: Cuts, Scrapes & Burns

With a houseful of rowdy kids or adults packed into a kitchen, you’ll want to keep overall safety top of mind. That means being well-prepared for minor injuries, including cuts, scrapes and burns.

Have a first aid kit on hand. Include adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes along with tape, gauze, latex gloves, antiseptic wipes, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream.

Also include some basic over-the-counter medications including ibuprofen, acetaminophen and antihistamines, as well as a thermometer.

Stash an ice pack or two in the freezer, or have the instant version on hand, for those unexpected bumps and bruises.

Take a Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED Course

Did you know that 74 percent of cardiac arrests happen in the home? Wondering what to do with a multigenerational houseful of family in the days before or after Thanksgiving? What better time to take a Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED course than over the holidays when everyone’s in town and together.

Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED is available in two different training methods, blending learning and classroom training. Both are geared toward anyone with little or no medical training who wants to be prepared for an emergency in any setting.

One more option to consider for the family: Heartsaver Virtual, a convenient training kit and app solution allows you the flexibility to take courses and complete a virtual hands-on skills session with an instructor 100% online.

Download the Free AHA CPR & First Aid App

Available for download on Apple Store or Google Play, the AHA has developed an array of apps dedicated to bringing science right into the palm of your hand. Check out the free CPR & First Aid App so you can be prepared to act in an emergency.

The app’s key features include easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for adults and children ages 10-plus, so get the kids involved too. Use it to learn CPR and first aid for some of the most common emergencies to occur not just during the holidays, but year round. The course covers choking relief, bleeding and bandaging, heart attack, seizures, Hands-Only CPR, CPR with breaths and much more. The fun and informative format includes video, animations quizzes and games for the whole family.




A Heartsaver In the Community

By Gina Mayfield

On a crisp mid-September evening in Forest Lake, Minnesota, Kristina Thill was helping with the annual fall festival at the church where she grew up. After she finished her shift at the kids’ game booth and started chitchatting with a friend, she noticed an elderly church member stumbling out of the building.

“We were like … okay, well, that was kind of weird. He doesn’t really look like he’s doing too well. So we walked over to him and asked if he was okay, and he said thatsomething didn’t feel right. That’s when he collapsed,” Kristina says. She and her friend caught him as he fell to the ground and stopped breathing. They yelled for help and a police officer rushed over and began to administer CPR. At that point, Kristina handed her phone to a bystander and asked them to call 911.

“Because I work at the school and church, I knew where the AED machine was. So I ran and grabbed it,” Kristina says. “When I initially got back to the scene, the police officers stopped CPR to help with the AED. I kind of pushed them back and said, ‘Nope, I’ve been trained. Continue with CPR, and I’ll get him hooked up.’”

Luckily for everyone involved, Kristina had taken a couple of American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED classes from a local provider called Heart & Soul. Her most recent class was just three weeks prior to this event and the instructor, Cindi Gervais, knew to go over where to find the AED, even though some in attendance already knew where to find it.

“I hooked him up to the AED machine, and it said to administer a shock,” Kristina remembers. “We pushed the button and brought him back. He started coming around and talking.”

By that time the EMTs had arrived, assessed the situation and requested a helicopter to take the man to a major hospital. Kristina’s mom works for the church and does all of the hospital and home visits, so she was able to get in touch with the hospital to learn the man had survived. He bounced back quickly and continues to volunteer at the church and school.

The training Kristina received not only gave her the knowledge she needed to play an important part in the rescue, it gave her the confidence she needed to help save a life.