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There’s really no explanation for Ian Clark’s sudden heart failure three years ago. At just 32 years of age, he collapsed on a Monticello street during a noonday run, despite his healthy diet and being “a runner all my life.”
He doesn’t remember much about that day, but does know that CPR saved his life.
“I had been laying without breathing for an estimated four to eight minutes, so I had already passed the time where normal brain death occurs,” said Clark, now 35 and showing no long-lasting effects from what was termed as sudden death cardiac arrest.
He told his story to Monticello Middle School students Feb. 12 as part of student CPR training, which was administered by the school in cooperation with Kirby Ambulance Service employees.
“I’m fortunate to be a part of a very small number – only five percent of sudden arrest victims survive. So I’m very fortunate to be here, and it’s because of CPR training that I am able to come and talk to you right now,” he told MMS students.
After hearing Clark’s story, students took turns on 40 mannequins specifically designed for CPR practice. In the event of an emergency such as Clark’s, they were told to call 911, then start performing chest compressions on a victim who is not breathing. If an automated external defibrillator is available, instructions were to power up the machine and it would walk them through the process of evaluation before any shocks were recommended.
Students were then told to get the Bee Gees 1977 song “Stayin’ Alive” stuck in their head. The disco hit has a cadence of about 104 beats per minute, which corresponds nicely to CPR recommendations of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute. So, with the 70’s style music blaring on the middle school gymnasium speakers, students practiced to the beat that made John Travolta famous in the movie “Saturday Night Live.”
“I thought the training went very well,” said Christine Dickerson, a physical education teacher at the middle school. “I feel the students took the training seriously after hearing Ian’s story and seeing that cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, young or old.”
Among the Kirby Ambulance personnel helping with the training were paramedics Tom Keagle, John Menacher and Tanya Oliger and EMT Michele Watzlawick.