Every second counts: 2 lives saved this month thanks to citizens knowing CPR

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When every second counts, knowing what to do can save a life.

According to the American Heart Association, about 90% of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die. Because people knew what to do, two people at two different high school football games this month were part of the 10%.

On Sept. 3, the head coach of the Waseca Blue Jays, Brad Wendland, became unresponsive on the sideline — CPR and an automated electronic defibrillator, or AED, brought him back.

On Sept. 10, veteran Bruce McElmury became unresponsive on the sideline of the Hutchinson Tigers football game — CPR brought him back.

In both cases, the two credit quick action and trained personnel with saving their lives. Athletic trainers who were at the games attended to them within seconds.

Because not all cardiac arrests happen while surrounded by medical professionals, Mike Schoonover and his family has made it their mission to prepare people to help with medical episodes, and perhaps help prevent them from ever happening, with the Patrick Schoonover Foundation and Play for Patrick.

"It’s really meaningful work and it’s important work," Schoonover said about the heart screenings Play for Patrick puts on.

"We’re finding those kids and making a difference in their lives," Schoonover added.

In 2014, Schoonover’s 14-year-old son, Patrick, collapsed while playing hockey. The family later learned that Patrick’s early death was because of many heart defects.

"We work hard to keep [Patrick’s] name alive and put the foundation on, put the screens on," Schoonover said.

Along with heart screenings for children, Play for Patrick events also teach people what to do if someone goes into cardiac arrest with a CPR mannequin and an AED. They’ve screened thousands of kids and taught thousands the basics of CPR and how to operate an AED.

After a pandemic pause, their first screening and training will be on Oct. 30 at Eastview High School.

A big misconception with CPR and using an AED is that one needs to be certified to help someone, Schoonover said. He says that’s not the case. In fact, he said knowing the basics can help save a life.

Both Wendland and McElmury say they’ll use their time now not only appreciating life with their families but also advocating the importance of knowing what to do and learning those basics.