Stayin’ Alive in Arlington

Stayin’ Alive in Arlington

Wakefield High School students undergo CPR training.

Hillary Lindsay from the Alexandria Fire Department teaching CPR.

Hillary Lindsay from the Alexandria Fire Department teaching CPR. Photo by Vernon Miles.


Lt. Robert Bowen from the Arlington Fire Department teaching CPR.


Captain Sarah Marchegian (left) watches Imari Poindexter (right) perform CPR while Elena Ogbe (center) prepares the defibrillator.


Captain Sarah Marchegiani (left) demonstrates how to rescue someone choking for Elena Ogbe (center) and Imari Poindexter (right).


Jerry Parr with the Arlington Fire Department demonstrates how to rescue someone choking.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive .…”

You're probably hearing the refrain from the hit 1977 Bee Gees song in your head. At 104 beats per minute, the tune falls within the 100 and 120 chest compressions per minute recommended by the British Heart Foundation for CPR.

On April 5, firefighters and medics from Arlington and Alexandria worked with the Virginia Hospital Center for five hours to teach Wakefield High School students how to recognize a cardiac arrest victim and how to potentially help save a life.

“It’s important to know when to stop and when to start,” said Imron Saeed, a student at the school who says he’s had two people pass out near him before. “Things happen. People pass out.”

Mayra Ramirez, a Wakefield student, said she learned that when someone passes out, the first thing you do is check for consciousness and, if not, to begin procedures for CPR.

One of the other lessons from the day was to always know where the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) is. The course instructor, Lt. Robert Bowen with the Arlington Fire Department, said at one point firefighters responded to a school where a student was going into cardiac arrest and the student’s peers were all standing around watching a few feet away from a defibrillator that could have saved the student’s life.

“I don’t want students to worry about breaking ribs, I don’t want them to worry about being sued,” said Bowen. “Help someone who needs your help.”

Bowen said teens are equally as vulnerable to heart attacks as anyone else, and they might encounter someone in their family or other students experiencing a heart attack.

“It’s about feeling confident doing CPR,” said Bowen. “A lot of people hesitate and worry that they won’t do it right or they might hurt someone.”

CPR training has stepped up across Virginia after a bill was passed in 2013 requiring all high school students to undergo CPR training before graduation.

“It’s important to create a team aspect to help them save a life before emergency medical services gets there,” said Taryn Overman from the Virginia Hospital Center. “It’s about closing the loop.”

Overman said part of the importance of teaching CPR at a high school level was that the students were more likely to absorb the information than adults would be, and might be able to take that home and share it with others.

“This school has been great about getting invested,” said Overman. “Having firefighters and EMTs here giving this course really gives it weight.”