JONESBORO — High schools soon will have to provide students training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of an automated external defibrillator.
Senate Bill 212 requires that training for ninth through 12th grade students be part of schools’ existing health and physical education courses. The bill passed Georgia’s House and Senate by overwhelming majorities in March, and it will go into effect July 1.
Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation with its author Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) and four other state senators.
“We understand the importance of health care and education,” said Seay.
She said she has promoted advancing education on life-saving skills for the past decade, since she survived her own life-threatening ordeal.
“I was actually mowing the lawn in April 2003,” she said. “I was short of breath and feeling not-my-usual-self. I didn’t know really know what was going on.”
Seay said she took a break from mowing the lawn. When her daughter called, she told her about her symptoms. She said her daughter told her to call 911 and she was transported to Southern Regional Medical Center.
It was a heart attack.
She said a cardiac catheterization revealed three blockages near the heart “which was to my surprise, because I thought I was healthy.”
“It was actually in my genes,” said Seay. “We do have heart disease on the maternal side. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of not only women but of men. Most women, by nature, are born nurturers and we tend to put everything and everybody ahead of ourselves. But I’d rather get it ruled out than to have it take you out.”
The Senate bill she co-sponsored states that a teacher does not have to be a certified CPR trainer nor do they have to facilitate, provide or oversee instruction that does not result in certification.
Students are not required to be certified in CPR and the use of an AED device either but must receive instruction on the subject matter as part of the health and physical education curricula.
The state Department of Education is charged with establishing a way to make sure school boards are adhering to the new requirements.
Not much will change in Clayton County Public Schools, said spokesman David Waller.
He said the district decided a few years ago to put AEDs at all of its facilities. There is at least one device, and as many as four, at each school.
Waller said the devices are available in populated areas and access is similar to that of fire extinguishers.
“We already have people trained on the use of AEDs,” he said. “It is already included in our health curriculum and the same is basically true with CPR.”
Schools will add equipment for CPR instruction, he said. High schools will have at least two CPR dummies for the training funded through the district’s health and physical education budget.
Seay sees the renewed focus on CPR and AED training as potentially life-saving for people like her.
She has heart stents and sees her cardiologist several times a year.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to tell my story,” she said. “I am a heart attack survivor and I just believe in total health care.”
That total health care, she said, includes the classroom.
“I think you should put your money on what you value, and I value health and education,” she said. “As young adults, the more we prepare them, the more hands and eyes we have as we move forward. They are just another set of skilled hands on the scene that can help us save lives. At the end of the day, we want to save lives.”