Every high school graduate in the Brainerd lakes area is qualified to perform lifesaving CPR, thanks to the training that Colette Larson, registered nurse at Brainerd Lakes Heart & Vascular Center at Essentia Health-St-Joseph’s Medical Center, has brought to their health classes.
Starting this year, a new state law requires all Minnesota students to know CPR; but students in the Brainerd, Pillager, Pierz and Pequot Lakes school districts are ahead of the law. For nearly four years, Larson and CPR-certified nursing students have taught high school students who are then required to take a kit home and teach their families.
Larson serves as the Take Heart program coordinator for the Brainerd Lakes Heart & Vascular Center at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. Since the program began in 2010, more than 9,500 people have been trained to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED). That includes more than 2,300 students and close to 5,600 family members.
Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation Director Miranda Anderson said training ordinary people is important for a simple reason: Most folks who have heart attacks are out in the community, not at a hospital.
That’s also why Take Heart has placed 73 AEDs throughout the community. The program trains people at each site on how to use the machine if someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest.
Take Heart was originally funded by a CentraCare Foundation grant that purchased the AEDs. Now the program relies on donations to the St. Joseph’s Foundation.
“Training takes the fear out of doing CPR,” Larson said. “A bystander is going to save someone’s life much more than the ambulance personnel because it takes the ambulance 10-15 minutes to get there. That’s too long to wait. For a sudden cardiac arrest victim to have a chance at a positive outcome, CPR needs to start immediately and an AED needs to be used within the first few minutes.”
While she’s trained thousands in CPR, Larson is focused on one important number.
“If we can save one person’s life because somebody wasn’t afraid to go ahead and start chest compressions, that’s worth the four years of training that I’ve done,” she said.
If you or your organization would like free CPR training, call Larson at 218-829-2861, ext. 3961.