Proposal: Want to graduate high school? You'll need to know CPR

Proposal: Want to graduate high school? You'll need to know CPR »Play Video
Students from Valley Catholic in Beaverton demonstrate their CPR skills at the Capitol Thursday.

SALEM, Ore. – Making it a requirement for students to learn CPR before they're allowed to graduate from high school is the idea behind a bill that is before lawmakers.

Students from Valley Catholic in Beaverton demonstrated their CPR skills at the Capitol on Thursday.

The students have been part of a pilot program that teaches CPR as part of the eighth-grade health curriculum. In just two years, 160 eighth-graders have been certified in CPR.

James Joyce learned CPR in high school and credits it to saving a woman's life at a baseball game years later.

"If 45,000 students in this state learn CPR, that's 45,000 first responders," he said. "And if you think about it, even if only 50 percent of them take it seriously and end up being able to jump in, that's over 20,000 first responders."

Giving CPR right away, like Joyce did, can double, even triple a person's survival rate.

Chuck Coleman, a paramedic who trains people in CPR, said it's crucial that CPR is started immediately.

"You basically have two to three minutes" to start CPR, he said during a KATU in-studio demonstration, adding that emergency personnel can take six to 10 minutes to arrive on the scene.

The rate of providing chest compressions is also important. Coleman said about 100 a minute going at least two inches down into the chest are needed. He said a good way to remember the rhythm is to play the song "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees in your head or singing it out loud.

These days, CPR classes are taught using the hands-only version without the rescue breathing. The thought is more people will be willing to help if there's no mouth-to-mouth contact.

Getting trained in CPR, only takes about a half-hour.

Other people who either used CPR to save someone's life or was saved by CPR also shared their stories.

Sandra Sharp-Meekcoms learned CPR in school, too. When her husband, Raoul, collapsed from a heart attack, 911 operators gave her a refresher course over the phone and she kept her husband's heart going until paramedics arrived.

"I'd be dead today," Raoul said. "There's no other way I would have survived. Every time I talk about it, of course I get goose bumps. I'm an incredibly lucky person."

Washington is also considering requiring CPR training in school.

And the Valley Catholic program has already saved a life.

Over the weekend, the kids trained other students and adults at a speech competition. The next day, one of those adults was in a restaurant where a customer had a heart attack, and the newly trained woman knew what to do.

About 90 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest die because they don’t receive immediate CPR.

Watch Chuck Coleman demonstrate CPR in KATU's studios: