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Florida father pushes for CPR mandate in high schools

Lawmaker sponsors bill that would make learning CPR a requirement for students

A state bill that will require high school students to receive CPR training is working its way through state legislation.
A state bill that will require high school students to receive CPR training is working its way through state legislation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shawn Sima made a promise to God on Feb. 2, 2016: spare my daughter and I will spend my life preaching about the importance of CPR.

It’s a promise Sima made when his daughter collapsed while running on a treadmill in a gym near their Melbourne home.

“My daughter died, by all accounts, before she ever hit the floor,” he recalled. “She was flying through the air off that treadmill and that’s when the clock started ticking.”

At the time, Sima’s 16-year-old daughter, Lexi, was the picture of health.

“She has been a lifelong athlete since the age of 4,” he said, adding that his daughter’s sudden cardiac arrest that day was unexplained by an otherwise healthy disposition and lack of preexisting conditions. “Most people who have a heart attack have some kind of blockage. My daughter had an electrical problem with her heart.”

He said a stranger at the gym took the lead and started performing CPR on Lexi, then two others jumped in to help and eventually used an AED to shock her heart back into rhythm. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors implanted a pacemaker and a defibrillator in her chest. She woke up three days later.

Shawn Sima made a promise to God on Feb. 2, 2016: spare my daughter and I will spend my life preaching about the importance of CPR.
Shawn Sima made a promise to God on Feb. 2, 2016: spare my daughter and I will spend my life preaching about the importance of CPR.

Since that day, Sima and Lexi have told whomever will listen about Lexi’s brush with death, fulfilling Sima’s promise to spread the message about the importance of learning CPR. Their story was so powerful, they convinced State Sen. Dennis Baxley to sponsor a bill that would make CPR training mandatory for high school seniors to graduate.

“I have five children and eight grandchildren, and I think about the future all the time,” Sen. Baxley said. “The first thing they have to do is survive. I had a nephew who drowned during a family outing. Those incidents are very intimate, it told me this can happen any time to anyone.”

Baxley said the bill would lay out a requirement to make sure every student gets at least one hour of CPR study.

“It could be during a health class, physical education, sports,” he said, adding that the new mandate would not require any additional school funding but would instead draw from community programs that offer CPR training for free.

According to the American Heart Association, every year more than 350,000 Americans fall victim to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, and only about one in 10 survives. CPR increases a person’s chance for survival by 51%. Survival rates drop as much as 10% for every minute that goes by without intervention. Far too often, a bystander calls 911 when someone collapses, but then waits for rescue to arrive instead of starting CPR in the event someone has collapsed and stopped breathing.

Watch the segment below, which demonstrates the proper way to administer CPR. The AHA said there’s no need for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The two most important factors are pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest.

For Sima, an Air Force veteran who now works as an orthopedic physician’s assistant, CPR training has become a mission: education as many people about the life-saving skill as possible.

“Seven out of 10 people die at home. You have 3-5 minutes to respond to your loved one or somebody else’s loved one or they are going to have brain damage or be dead,” he said. ‘The average response time for the ambulance to show up here in the United States is 8-12 minutes. Do the math, you are one who has to know what to do. or the outcome is going to be terrible.”


About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.