I’d be willing to bet that you haven’t had to look a student in the eyes, hand them your keys, and say, “go get the AED.” One of my best teacher friends had to a few years back. For a student who collapsed from a cardiac emergency and was supposed to show up to my class in two class periods.
I can guarantee you don’t want to waste time telling them what an AED is if you find yourself in that situation. They don’t know. They’re in middle school. They’re likely going to get nervous and try to ask questions, but there’s not time for that.
Turns out, the student had an unknown condition that caused them to go into cardiac arrest. The quick thinking of the teachers and the very quick arrival of first responders who used an AED on site saved this student’s life.
Teachers don’t think they’ll need their campus AED
Before this incident, I didn’t realize that we had an AED on campus. I sat in CPR classes, required for coaches only, every two years where they were used. I never thought I’d need to know actually about them.
This blog post has been in swirling my head, needing to be written since this incident. Teachers don’t think it will happen on their campus. But after Damar Hamlin collapsed on the football field on national TV, I had a stirring to write it again.
Because you never know when and who it could happen to. And I didn’t realize it was even a possibility until it happened to one of my students on my campus.
I’m not going to go into the details about this event because it’s not my full story to tell, and I’m still very good friends with the teachers who were involved.
I’m going to be frank though. An AED can save someone’s life. Where are the AEDs on your campus? Do you know?
Changes to the First Week of School
After this incident, I made a big change to my first week of school every year since. We go find the AEDs.
Admin always asks that you do a few things that first week of school. It might be fire drill practice, an intro lesson to campus rules, or maybe passing out paperwork and logistical tasks for starting the school year.
These tasks take time, but never a whole class period.
Get out and show students where the campus AED is
One of these days is the best to take a tour and find your AED on campus.
I like using the fire drill practice day because we’re already going to be out of the classroom. We just make a few more stops.
Here’s the tricky thing about cardiac arrest. It’s an electrical problem with the signals in the heart, unlike a heart attack which is a blockage in the arteries.
This means it can happen to anyone.
When I decide to tour campus and show kids where AEDs are, I share the story about my student. When it happens to someone you know, it hits differently. Kids get silent. They realize it is real.
Share a story to make a connection
You can share this story. Or this story about a 16 year old at tennis practice. The story of Damar Hamlin or Christian Ericksen. Middle school students connect with stories.
After I share the story, we watch this video of how an AED works. It’s simple and short.
Then we go on a campus tour.
AEDs are usually in the front office and the gym. Check with your campus nurse to be sure. If there is one in the gym, check with the PE teacher to see if you can sneak into a corner of the gym for just a minute each class period one day.
Before you leave the classroom, remember – you have middle school students! Be VERY clear with your expectations.
Be clear on your expectations before leaving your classroom
Tell them in no uncertain terms that they are to walk, not run. They may not put their hands or feet on each other. They may talk quietly outside. Yelling is unacceptable.
When we get to a door leading inside, usually the office, I make them all stop and reiterate expectations. The office is where people answer phones and have meetings. They should not talk unless it’s necessary. And I explain that If I have to call them out for being too loud – at my discretion – I will call home (and I follow through!).
Depending on where your classroom will depend on where you stop first. If the PE teacher asks you not to come in, you can probably look through a window and point the AED out.
If you can get cooperation from the nurse, they might open the wall case up and let the siren sound. Always tell kids the alarm is to draw attention to an emergency. Do not waste time explaining why they are running in the office. Once they grab the AED, adults will follow.
Physically walking students to the AEDs on campus and showing them what it looks like may save seconds or minutes in an emergency. In an emergency, those moments matter.
Prepared students and teachers know where the AED on campus is
I was watching the Bills game when Damar Hamlin collapsed. After watching what seems to be thousands of hours of football in the last two years with my husband, the Bills are my team of choice.
As news updates rolled in, one article caught my eye. The NFL has what they call a “60-minute meeting” with all the medical personnel and officials one hour before kickoff at every game to prepare specifically for cardiac emergencies.
How many football games have you watched without a cardiac emergency? I’ve watched almost three years worth!
Yet little did I know that before every game, this group of people met in case there was one. They wanted to be prepared.
By showing your students where the AEDs are on campus, you’re conducting your own “60-minute meeting.” Chances are your students won’t need to know. But in case they do, it could save a life.