Teen cardiac arrest survivor teaching peers importance of CPR

Student from Plant High School creates a CPR Club
Posted at 6:23 PM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-28 03:31:09-04

After almost dying on a track field, a Tampa student is working to teach his peers how to respond to a medical emergency.

"I consider myself extremely lucky," said Charlie Curtis.

Two years ago, he had a near death experience at Plant High School. Nearing the last lap in his PE class, he felt something was wrong.

"I felt really, really lightheaded and all of a sudden just heard a really loud ringing sound," he said.

He started to slow down and he passed out. He didn't know it at the time but he had just suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. According to the American Heart Association, 90% of people in that state, outside of a hospital, die. Curtis was the exception. 

"I remember during the compressions screaming at Charlie and telling him to come back and stay with us," described coach Carrie Mahon.

She was one of four credited with saving his life. They kept the rhythm for 15 minutes. Inspired by his saviors, Curtin started a the W.H.A.T, or World Health and Treatment, Club. The point is to help students interested in going into the medical profession. Members also learn how to eat healthy and exercise to prevent heart disease. A lead component to this club is learning  hands-only CPR. Transforming students into emergency first responders.

"I want people to know that they know what to do and that they are able to save that life and that they are confident enough to perform CPR," said Curtis.

The AHA says hands-only CPR, meaning no mouth-to-mouth, is as effective as conventional CPR and can even triple a victim's chance of survival. 

Curtis shared his story with the Hillsborough County School Board. This summer, they voted to require high school students to learn CPR before they graduate.

 An estimated 13,000 students will be trained in Tampa Bay every year. Meanwhile, 200 students applied to join the W.H.A.T Club  and learn how to save a life.

Today students also learned more about heart disease. Ashley HomeStore and the American Heart Association teamed up for a Red Sofa Tour program. A special made red sofa travels across schools. Students take pictures on it and make a pledge to live healthy and avoid heart disease.