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Local kids learn how to save lives

Idaho Falls

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Students at Alturas International Academy learn to use an AED from and Idaho Falls Firefighter | Eric Grossarth,

IDAHO FALLS — Students at an Idaho Falls school learned how to save lives Wednesday.

It was all part of an event at Alturas International Academy that included using an automated external defibrillator on mannequins and learning CPR with help from the Idaho Heart Foundation and the Idaho Falls Fire Department.

AEDs are portable devices allowing a person administering CPR to place a pad on a victim’s bare chest. The device analyzes the rhythm of the heart and delivers an electric shock as necessary to stimulate the heart until help arrives.

Austin, a fourth grader at Alturas, said “it was fun to learn” the procedures of CPR and how to properly place his hands while using pressure to make the heart pump blood.

In addition to receiving instruction on how to use an AED and perform CPR, Dr. Blake Wachter, president of the Idaho Heart Foundation and a local cardiologist, teamed up with her colleagues and a heart transplant patient to teach the students.

Courtesy Blake Wachter and the Idaho Heart Foundation

Students at the academy got to see and feel real hearts taken from animals. They also got to see and hold electronic devices that are implanted in humans to treat heart conditions.

“Today was a special day in the fact they got to learn CPR and how to use an AED, and they are not afraid of it,” Wachter said.

The event came to fruition after weeks of fundraising by students to buy an AED for the school. With a goal of $1,000, the students started their “Penny Wars” fundraiser in February, raising the necessary funds in about three weeks.

“We raised money with pennies,” seventh-grader Lauren Snyder said, “Eventually they counted it up, and we got $1,275.”

As an incentive to reach the $1,000 goal, the students were allowed to tape Principal Brian Bingham and Michelle Ball, the academy’s executive director, to a wall.

Courtesy Alturas International Academy

The Idaho Heart Foundation supported the students’ efforts during the process and teamed up with the Idaho Falls Fire Department to train every student at Alturas International Academy in hands-only CPR (chest compression without the mouth-to-mouth breaths) and the use of their new AED.

“Since they went through all the effort to make sure that their school had (an AED) and the students put all the effort into it, we offered the training,” said Eric Day, EMS chief at the Idaho Falls Fire Department. “AEDs and bystander CPR are critical components of keeping people alive until the ambulance gets there.”

With CPR and an AED, you can improve a person’s chance of surviving by up to two and a half times, Day said.

Martha Rigby, who teaches a class of first- through third-graders at Alturas, said her students were excited to learn how to save lives.

“They have learned so much,” Rigby said. “The chance to have hands-on experience is priceless.”

Wachter said if you wish to raise money for an AED, you can contact the Idaho Heart Foundation at She also said people can become certified in various aspects of first aid including CPR and AED use through courses by the American Red Cross, a local hospital or the Idaho Falls Fire Department.

The Idaho Falls fire and police departments are planning on a fundraising event to be held on June 22 to purchase more AEDs to assist increased cardiac survival rates in the community, said Kerry Hammon, spokeswoman for the Idaho Falls Fire Department. Details about that event will be forthcoming.