Starting Hearts trains Brush Creek Elementary students in CPR, AED use |

Starting Hearts trains Brush Creek Elementary students in CPR, AED use

Melanie Wong
Brush Creek Elementary students practice the steps of using an AED. After calling 9-1-1 student's are instructed to "push" or give chest compressions to the victim.
Anthony Thornton | |

EAGLE — “Today we’re going to learn how to save lives,” Lynn Blake told a class of fourth graders.

Not too many classes start that way, but the Brush Creek Elementary students were among hundreds of other kids this month who learned how to recognize signs of sudden cardiac arrest, how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to operate an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

That’s a lot to handle for kids who could barely pronounce the words in those acronyms, but they had the help of Starting Hearts, an Eagle County based nonprofit that specializes in teaching the community CPR and AED techniques, creating awareness and providing the community with AEDs. Blake, the founder of Starting Hearts, said the nonprofit has done many training sessions at many schools, but Brush Creek was the first event where they had trained an entire school. That means about 400 students learned how to give chest compressions and use an AED during the course of the week.

“We would love to do this in all the schools,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be repeated and practiced. These kids are a bit young to adequately perform CPR, but we’re teaching them how to respond to the situation and recognize the signs to call 911.”

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Learning on the Heart Rod

Students crowded into the Heart Rod — a converted school bus outfitted with CPR dummies, flat-screen TVs and giant beanbag chairs — for a 45-minute emergency training session. Blake shared her own experience and inspiration for Starting Hearts. In 2007, when she was 27, Blake collapsed without warning at work from sudden cardiac arrest. Someone nearby administered CPR until emergency services arrived — something doctors said saved her life.

Students watched a short video that talked about the signs of sudden cardiac arrest, how to perform CPR and how to use an AED. The rest of the time was spent practicing the scenario from start to finish. They “called” 911 on pretend cell phones, “pushed” on the center of the chest and “shocked” using practice AED machines.

“Call, push, shock,” the class chanted in unison.

“People know ‘stop, drop and roll,’ for fire response, and we’re trying to get this to be the new phrase that everyone knows,” said Meredith Richards, marketing and development director for Starting Hearts.

Based on the attentive students, the chanting of the phrase in the hallways and general enthusiasm, the lesson seemed to have made an impression.

“The buzz has definitely been going around the school,” said physical education teacher Shelli Fullheart. “The kids are really learning. I hear them talking about it at lunch. They’re taking it very seriously and have asked some very smart questions.”

She said it was good for the children to hear from somebody like Blake and learn that sudden cardiac arrest could happen to young, healthy people, too.

“They all think that it is going to be somebody older like their grandparents, so to see someone like Lynn is an eye opener,” Fullheart said.

More AEDs

In addition to educational efforts, Starting Hearts also spearheads efforts to place AEDs around the community and teach people how to use them.

“We have about 250 AEDs in Eagle County, but we need about 500 more,” said Blake.

The organization is asking businesses and individuals to “adopt” an AED. With every adoption comes a free training session. At a recent training at The Riverwalk at Edwards, 24 local employees, residents and even bystanders took part.

For more information about Starting Hearts, adopting an AED, scheduling a training session or locate an Eagle County AED near you, go to

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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