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How do you jump-start a broken heart?

Rio Rancho High School staffers received Project Heart Start training from PHI Air Medical during their in-service session Monday, learning the new method of CPR and how to use automated external defibrillators for cardiac emergencies.

Patrick McKenzie, a flight paramedic with PHI, said the school district requested the training, sponsored by the New Mexico Heart Institute. The session was offered during the teacher in-service day, before students returned to classes on Tuesday.

RRHS nurse Julie Lords introduced the PHI trainers to teachers and other staff members who had gathered in the cafeteria. After a short presentation, they watched a video that featured Dr. Barry Ramo from KOAT-TV.

Ramo said the new CPR, which does not involve mouth-to-mouth breaths, can prevent cardiac arrests. He told listeners how to determine if someone is unconscious, call for help and administer chest compressions. The procedure, in combination with an automated external defibrillator, often saves lives before paramedics can arrive.


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The AED, Ramo said, turns on when the user presses a green button. The device then talks the user through the procedure. It will administer a shock, if necessary, to restore the person’s heart to normal rhythms.

Lords said the high school has four AED devices spread throughout the campus.

Ramo showed a common wall sign for AEDs and said everyone should be prepared to use them, when required, during cardiac emergencies.

The video mentioned how Marianne Evans, a teacher at Manzano High School in Albuquerque, used an AED to save the life of a student in December 2009.

After the video, staff member took turns with responsive mannequins to practice what they had learned. PHI trainers and Lords circulated to make sure participants used hard and fast compressions, which caused a clicking sound in the mannequins.

Lords said some people wonder why CPR no longer requires breathing. In 2008 the American Heart Association announced rapid and deep compressions work just as well.

Participants signed in for Monday’s training but did not receive CPR cards. Lords said people can obtain certification through a training that lasts about four hours. Ramo provides in-depth CPR training for free each year, usually at University of New Mexico.

Lords said all Rio Rancho Public Schools nurses recently received the same training and will share what they learned with the staff members at their schools. She said middle school students also will participate in the program.

Most or all of the more than 200 staff members at RRHS participated in Monday’s session.

Lords said the high school has never had to use an AED and couldn’t recall if one had been used anywhere else in the district. Monday’s training was part of a preventive effort.