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NYSNYS NEWS: Regents vote to implement new rule requiring CPR instruction in all schools.
CPR IN SCHOOLS: Dan Moran of the Heart AssocIation with two of the boys who survived, JJ Pesany (in red) and Joe Mendrick. The women are mothers of children who died.

NYSNYS NEWS: Regents vote to implement new rule requiring CPR instruction in all schools.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 17) Survivors of sudden cardiac arrest and the mothers of children who didn't survive gathered here Thursday to watch the state Board of Regents vote to require all students to be taught CPR before high school graduation day.

The vote to adopt regulations was the final hurdle in a 15-year push by the American Heart Association to require New York schools to include hands-only cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instruction and a heart defibrillator demonstration. New York became the 26th state to pass such a law in 2014, triggering a public comment and rule-making process.

CPR classes will start next month in some schools. Instruction will be given to children 12 and older.

"I'm here and I'm alive because my son learned CPR in school," said Joel Stashenko, a reporter for the New York Law Journal in Albany who collapsed at home on Memorial Day weekend three years ago and was kept alive by his 13 year old son, Casey.

"I'm alive because of CPR," said Joe Mendrick, 15, a Colonie boy who was revived after his heart stopped when he was struck in the chest by a pitched baseball when he was 11. His Little League coach called 911 while the other team's coach and a police officer performed CPR until the EMS arrived.

"Most cardiac arrests happen in the home and now more homes in New York state will have someone who knows CPR," said Dan Moran of Troy, a Heart Association board member and past chairman of the state advocacy committee. "We will be saving more lives and it will be because of the efforts of everyone who is standing here today."

He spoke outside the State Education Building after the Regents vote.

"We could save 2,000 lives a year because of this," said Regent James Cottrell, a doctor and medical professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, said of the expanded public education program on CPR.

The board recognized JJ Pesany of Lancaster, a high school senior and football player who suffered cardiac arrest after and electric shock and was revived by CPR, and Mendrick, who was wearing his JROTC school military uniform from Christian Brothers Academy. They also recognized four women whose children died after cardiac arrest.

"Unfortunately we have four mothers here who lost children because no one did CPR hopefully this will lead to prevention of these deaths in the future," Cottrell said.

"Fifteen years ago I lost my son to sudden cardiac arrest playing in his first high school lacrosse game," said Karen Acompora of Northport. "Unbeknownst to us, by being hit in the chest by a ball, you can go into sudden cardiac arrest."

She said they learned her son could have survived if an AED defibrillator was on the sidelines, so they successfully lobbied for Louis's Law that put the machines into schools.

As a result, "to date we have 87 lives saved, two right here, in New York state schools," she said. She said the new law is the legacy to today's children left by her son and the others who died without the benefit of CPR.