When Powell High School Students, Aspen Aguirre, 16, and Josie Darrah, 15, landed in the Cayman Islands for their summer vacation, the last thing on their mind was school, or anything that they had learned in school for that matter.
It was nothing but blue skies, warm weather and beaches for the next week. That is, until they heard the screams of a fellow vacationer pleading for help. Josie and Aspen looked over their shoulder and saw a man carrying a lifeless woman out of the water.
“He was screaming for help and a group of about 100 people gathered around him and no one was doing anything,” Josie said.
Realizing the woman was not breathing, Josie remembered learning Hands-only CPR just a few weeks earlier in her health class taught by Kandi Bennett. Aspen, who is a lifeguard, also knew the lifesaving skills from her certification training.
Both girls jumped into action. Josie started performing CPR and Aspen found an AED and started shocking the woman’s heart back into rhythm. EMS arrived a short-time later and took the woman to the hospital.
Unfortunately, the woman, traveling from another country, died two days later. But officials told the girls that because they had performed CPR and used an AED, the woman was able to live long enough for her family to fly in and say goodbye.
“It was really sad to find out that she didn’t make it. But the silver lining was learning that her family was able to spend time with her before she passed away,” said Josie.
Josie said if it weren’t for learning CPR in her health class just a few weeks prior, she would have been standing around, watching helplessly like everyone else. She says learning CPR in school gave her the confidence to take action when no one else would.
“I think every student in Wyoming should learn CPR in school. I think it should be mandatory. Would you ever want to experience a situation like that and not know what to do? Especially if it is someone you know?”
A few months later, Josie and Aspen were awarded Wyoming Bystander of the Year by the Department of Health’s EMS division. Josie has since gone on to learn how to use an AED through lifeguard training. Both girls encourage students and the public alike to learn CPR, even if it’s just hands-only.
Josie and Aspen are sharing their story and are working with the American Heart Association in Wyoming to help schools incorporate CPR as a graduation requirement.
“You may never have to use it. But you’ll be glad you did learn it, if you ever do have to use it.” Josie said.