In the last two years, Colette Larson has given about 1,500 students the tools they need to save a life.
As part of the Take Heart Program through the Brainerd Lakes Heart & Vascular Center at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center, she has trained students in grades 8-12 in CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).
The training not only provides students with the confidence to help someone suffering from a cardiac arrest, it also fulfills a new Minnesota law recently signed by Gov. Mark Dayton that requires middle and high school students to receive CPR training.
Larson, who coordinates the Take Heart program for Essentia Health, reaches students during their health classes in the Brainerd, Pillager, Pierz and Pequot Lakes school districts. She said teachers and students appreciate the hands-on training - they practice breaths and chest compressions on special training mannequins called "Mini Annies" and they get to try out an AED device.
"They follow the voice prompts of the AED device, and actually get to put it on the mannequin," Larson said. "They get to push the shock button."
Larson brings nursing students from Central Lakes College, along with other healthcare professionals, to help with the training.
"I think it benefits the students because they are in small groups and they have their own Annie to practice on," said Anne Niklaus, a health, wellness and fitness teacher at Brainerd High School South Campus. "Students then facilitate the education of their families at home."
As part of their homework, students bring home the "Mini Annie" and a training video to share what they've learned with their family. Larson estimates students have trained almost 3,000 family members in CPR techniques.
"Because of what the governor signed, the schools are coming to me now saying, 'You're coming back, right?'" said Larson. "The students thoroughly enjoy this - they love the training."
Larson said students tell her they feel much more confident to respond during a medical emergency and are no longer afraid to use an AED device. The Take Heart program also donates AEDs to community groups to help make devices more available in the Brainerd Lakes area. Larson has given out 66 so far.
Even though the Take Heart program was funded by a grant in its first two years, the Brainerd Lakes Heart & Vascular Center has committed to continue the successful community program.
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