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By Stacey Swart
I had just laid my head on the pillow and was enjoying a sense of peace and
accomplishment. It had been a good homeschool day filled with lots of quality cuddle and
play time with the children. There was even a bonus: quiet time with my husband after the
children went to bed.
Suddenly my husband’s phone rang. My stomach knotted instantly. Phones don’t normally
ring after 11 p.m. in our home.
My husband spoke calmly, “Okay, I will tell her.” The conversation ended. I felt a moment of
relief until my husband turned to me and said: “Your dad has stopped breathing. The
ambulance crew is working on him now and preparing to transport him to the hospital.”
I remember my mind swirling in confusion. My dad had attended a Baltimore Orioles game
earlier that evening and had texted me a wonderful picture of him and my mom. After
weeks of our schedules conflicting, my dad and I were planning to have breakfast together
in two days. I was in complete shock until my medical and military training kicked in.
Having enjoyed a pre-homeschool career as a Registered Nurse in the U.S. Navy and CIA, I
knew this news was not good.
I quickly picked up my paint-smeared clothes off the floor (I told you it had been a good
homeschool day), put them haphazardly back on, and ran to the car. It was almost midnight
as I drove to the hospital. I spent the next half-hour driving with the windows down, singing
hymns, and praying for my dad, mom, and the medical professionals working on him.
During my time of praise and prayer to the Lord, I can remember feeling a peace that
everything was going to be okay, a peace that surpassed all understanding.
When I arrived at the hospital, the staff quickly led me back to see my dad. He was lying on
a gurney in the Emergency Room, weakly making jokes with the staff. I was relieved to see
him communicating, a very good sign after cardiac arrest. My dad, however, looked old and
frail, and his lips and ears were a bluish color.
I had an opportunity to pray with my dad and share with him how much he is loved and
cherished before he went to the cardiac lab for a catheterization. I knew that if the Lord
chose to take him Home, my dad was ready and prepared to go. The cardiologist was very
concerned and wanted to start the procedure right away. My mom, my brothers Mike and
Steve, and I retreated to the waiting area to await the results. Only then did I hear how
close my father had already come to dying that night.
Life-Saving Lesson 1: Make sure your loved ones know Jesus. You never know when
their time is up.
After the Orioles game, my Dad felt a lump in his throat and was slightly short of breath. He
felt a little odd but was well enough to drive about 60 miles to the home they share with my
brother Mike in Frederick, Maryland. When they arrived home, my dad stopped in the main
part of the house and talked for a while with Mike while my mom went to their basement
apartment to get ready for bed. They surmised that my dad had then walked down the
stairs and soon after that, collapsed in his bedroom. That is where my mom found him. She
checked for his pulse and breathing but found none. She immediately began a series of
chest compressions and gave my dad a breath. Then she yelled for my brother, who was
one floor above, and continued compressions. By the grace of God my brother was within
earshot. He called 911 and then began helping my mom with compressions.
Life-Saving Lesson 2: Teach your children not only how to dial 911 but also how to
use the “speaker” or “hands free” option on your phone. If they are alone, this
feature will enable them to interact with the 911 operator even as they perform CPR.
Most 911 operators are trained to give CPR instructions over the phone.
My mother and brother continued to perform CPR until the ambulance crew arrived. After
multiple shocks with an AED (Automated External Defibrillator), my dad’s heartbeat
reluctantly went back into rhythm for a while. He continued to stop breathing and required
intervention by the EMTs multiple times. Once in the ambulance, he regained
consciousness, which was quite a shock to everyone. Unlike most patients in this condition,
my dad arrived in the ER breathing and communicating.
What saved my dad’s life was the prompt application of CPR by my mom and brother.
Though my mom is petite (smaller than many middle school children), she displayed the
strength of a warrior. She acted promptly, cried out to the Lord, began CPR, and called
immediately for help. My brother, also trained in CPR, was able to help her with
compressions when she grew tired. Individuals from two generations, both of whom had
exposure and knowledge of CPR, worked together to effectively keep oxygen circulating
through my dad’s body until the emergency crew arrived.
Life-Saving Lesson 3: It is important to recognize that precious seconds can be lost
even in dialing 911. Ideally, one person will dial 911 while another is actively
performing CPR. Including CPR in your homeschool curriculum increases the chances
of more than one person with CPR familiarity being involved in an emergency. You
and your children will learn this life-saving technique together.
The cardiologist found severe blockages during the cardiac catheterization. After receiving a
balloon pump (his heart was too weak to pump on its own), my dad was flown to
Washington Adventist Hospital for quadruple bypass heart surgery. The surgery was a
success. Praise the Lord! Dad had only minor surgical complications and is now on the road
We are a thankful and blessed family. It is obvious to us that the Lord had His hand in this
outcome for my dad. It is a miracle that my dad even survived. Statistically he is an
anomaly. The cardiologist on call at the hospital even verbalized to our family that his
outcome was miraculous. In his years of experience, he has only seen one other patient
with these types of blockages survive a heart attack. Even this man of science gave credit
to prompt CPR and a divine hand.
Life-Saving Lesson 4: God uses prompt CPR to save lives.
After my dad’s cardiac arrest, our family understands deeply and personally how important
CPR knowledge is. We also understand how important it is to teach the next generation. I
have already started educating my children in an age-appropriate manner. Early exposure
will make them more comfortable and more likely to be ready to help when the need arises.
With my two young children (aged 2 and 6), we discuss how to get help and call 911. They
may not be strong enough to do the compressions correctly, but they know when something
is wrong, how to get help, and what to say to the 911 operator.
With my two oldest (aged 9 and 11), I include instruction about proper CPR techniques. To
help them remember the rhythm of the compressions (100 beats per minute), we use the
songs “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and the “ABC” song. Being a 70s fan already, I even
introduced them to the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive” (along with the requisite dance
moves and bell bottoms).
We will continue to discuss CPR frequently and then review our technique on a monthly
basis. When my children are older, I plan to have them take a certified class in Conventional
CPR, but for now I plan to train them at home with Hands-Only CPR. I also hope to
purchase the Friends and Family® CPR Anytime program offered through the American
Heart Society (which comes with its own mannequin to practice on).
Life-Saving Lesson 5: Remember the five P’s: Proper Planning Prevents Poor
Performance. Planning for the unexpected now will prevent poor performance when
every second counts.
Resources and Recommendations
The American Heart Society (AHS) states that “almost 80% of Cardiac Arrests occur at
This statistic alone makes it critical that at least one individual in every home
knows how to administer CPR. Learning proper CPR techniques is not as hard as it once
was. Though being trained face-to-face by a certified trainer in Conventional CPR (with
mouth-to-mouth assisted breathing) is ideal, there are other options.
In March of 2008 the Red Cross modified its CPR criteria to include something called Hands-
This method is intended for untrained or previously trained individuals who are
not current or confident in their CPR skills. The idea is to take out the “mouth-to-mouth”
component and just do hand compressions.
Hands-Only CPR is recommended for witnessed cardiac arrest in a teen or adult victim.
Conventional CPR is still recommended for infants, pre-pubertal children, anyone found
already unconscious, victims of drowning, victims with irregular breathing, or drug overdose
cases. This may sound confusing, but always remember that any attempt at CPR is always
better than no CPR at all. According to the AHS, Hands-Only CPR has been shown to be just
as effective as Conventional CPR in the first few minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest.
The American Heart Society provides resources in Hands-Only CPR through a program titled
Friends and Family® CPR Anytime. This program provides CPR training for the home and
costs approximately $35 per kit.
This program does not result in CPR card certification, but
it does provide training and knowledge in the use of Hands-Only CPR. Visit their website at
www.heart.org and search for “Hands-Only CPR.”
The American Red Cross is also a great website to investigate. You can visit
www.redcross.org and search for “Hands-Only CPR.” According to the Red Cross, one in four
people will be in a situation that requires CPR during their lifetime.
Another free option is a Hands-Only CPR video produced by medical students at
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Chicago CardiacArrest
Resuscitation Education Service (CCARES). This is a free and informative six-minute video.
There are many ways to incorporate CPR education into our homeschools. Your options
include free videos, purchasing a home training kit, or taking a class to become certified in
CPR. The main point is to understand the importance of CPR, discuss it openly with your
children, and be prepared.
Prompt CPR saves lives. My Dad is living proof.
Stacey Swart, along with her husband James, homeschool their four precious gifts from God
(aged 2, 6, 9, and 11). Stacey knows that homeschooling and teaching her children about
Jesus are her true callings. She also enjoys traveling, the beach, healthy eating, and
reading classics. Stacey has homeschooled in Maryland, Ohio, and Hawaii and is preparing
for an international move to Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Copyright 2014, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in
the Annual Print 2014 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education
magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and
download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
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