WINNEBAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — A Winnebago elementary school is joining two others as the only “Heart Safe” schools in Illinois.
The initiative by Project ADAM prepares schools for an emergency situation requiring CPR or AED.
It was just a few years ago that Dorothy Simon Elementary School’s principal found herself in an emergency situation. She lived to fight another day thanks to coworkers springing into action.
She now hopes to teach others the importance of these life-saving skills.
“When I explained it to my staff and the whole Winnebago School District, they were like, ‘we want to be a part of this, what can we do to make our community safer in case something like what happened to me, happens to someone else at one of our schools,'” said Heather Baker, principal at Dorothy Simon.
Baker collapsed during a work meeting on Feb. 21, 2018. She was experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
“CPR, AED training in the State of Illinoi is not mandated for educators, but very fortunately, people I worked with there knew what to do,” she said.
Her coworkers performed CPR, keeping her alive. She now hopes that more people can be aware of this life-saving skill.
“I had never heard of it prior, so it wasn’t something I worried about at 28-years-old, but going back to it afterwards and realizing that so few people know CPR and AED in communities, and so, I was nervous, functioning in this new world and this new life, but I’m very passionate about educating others,” Baker said.
She volunteered with Project ADAM, an organization with a mission to educate communities about sudden cardiac arrest. This is where she learned about the “Safe School” initiative, an effort to help better equip schools to prepare for emergency situations.
“It’s wonderful, and staff members have explained to me that they feel better, and every time we do a training, they gain more confidence,” Baker said.
She emphasized the quick and easy process it took to become a “Heart Safe” school. With the help of School Nurse Amanda Wishop, a response team was established. All staff became CPR trained. The last thing was a response team drill.
All of this will be practiced and enhanced each year.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is a prevalent threat,” Baker said. “It can happen to anybody at any time, and the only way that we can be prepared is to know CPR and AED, so we are prepared to do it immediately to save a life.”
Winnebago Community Unit School District 323 plans to have all schools become “Heart Safe” by the end of this year.