New Prairie students lead Indiana in emergency cardiac care

NEW CARLISLE, Indiana (WNDU) — There has been talk of responding to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) events since the recent collapse of NFL safety organization Damar Hamlin during the Bills Bengals football game.

But for several years, New Prairie High School has been ahead of the talks in response to a sudden tragedy of its own.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen what can happen, you know, when a student goes into cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Paul White, Superintendent of the New Prairie United School Corporation.

In 2017, Senior Mark Mayfield died after suffering sudden cardiac arrest during an intramural basketball game at school. New Prairie High School biomedicine teacher Tonya Aerts then led the responsibility β€” and the state β€” to make NPHS a nationally designated heart-safe school through Project Adam.

“We were the first school in Indiana to do that,” Aerts noted.

According to Aerts, to receive this award, Project Adam’s criteria require schools to have a robust cardiac arrest response plan in place that includes: working AEDs that are accessible within two to three minutes of someone collapsing; ensure the campus has a CPR certified security team; in addition to conducting cardiac safety drills at least twice a year.

New Prairie High School is affiliated with Riley Children’s Hospital, fulfilling another requirement for a hospital partnership.

Some NPHS students come to school early on Fridays to educate their teachers and staff on cardiac emergency plans. They also use the classrooms to do the same exercises with classmates.

“I think it’s really cool that any type of person, any age, can help,” senior Avery Mougin said. “You don’t have to be of a certain age. You just have to know what to do in an emergency.”

Fellow Senior Jaiden Winters can vouch for the training.

“When I was playing golf, I got into a situation where a girl went down, and I was prepared for that situation,” Winters described. “As humans, we can’t wait for something as tragic to happen to make a difference.”

dr White is impressed by the students’ efforts to save lives when a cardiac event occurs.

“They are the ones who are actually trained and doing various life-saving drills and initiatives and going out and even training our other students and expanding to other schools in the school system,” he said.

For teacher Tonya Aerts, it means potentially saving lives outside of the school day – a proactive response after the 2017 loss of Mark Mayfield.

β€œIt probably happens at home, at a wedding, at church or somewhere else. But if we can create a culture of people, students and staff who can step in and help someone, then I think that was inspired by Mark. And I think that’s a great thing,” Aerts said.