Raising Awareness About Heart Health: It Takes Many

By Stephen R Sroka posted 01-19-2017 15:48


It’s a day in my life I will never forget. This experience changed my message for life.

Imagine you’re in the middle of your day — teaching students or presenting at a local professional development training ­— when suddenly you go down. That’s what happened to me. I was presenting about the heroin epidemic and sharing what I thought was the message that needed to be heard; my “power of one” message — that even just one person can make a difference In changing the life of another person —  when suddenly, I fell to floor.

Cardiac arrests are fatal 90 percent of the time. Fortunately for me, the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was nearby and two trained professional school resource officers were in the audience. One of them, who trained just two weeks prior, performed CPR while the other retrieved a nearby defibrillator. An associate principal “shocked” me within a minute.

pic1.jpgWhile I was being life-flighted in the helicopter, I remember the crew telling me to relax. I could not. I felt that if I fell asleep, I would die. I realized at that point I could not make it alone. The power of one is not enough. My message changed at that very instant. I needed the school resource officers, the principal, the cardiologists, the helicopter pilot, the ambulance driver, the nurses, etc. I needed the power of many. I always did. I just didn’t know it. I do now. It takes a team to make a difference, and behind every hero is a team.

I wondered if all schools have principals or staff who are trained to perform CPR and  use an AED. Thankfully for me, the Medina City Schools did and they saved my life.

It’s been more than one year since I went into cardiac arrest. I always taught that early prevention is key to good cardiac health. Now, I really know why! As health and physical educators, you know the importance of teaching how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle starting in early childhood, but what about your classroom colleagues or school leaders, or members of your school PTA? Do they support your efforts?

As I said earlier, it doesn’t just take one person to make a difference, often it takes a village. February is American Heart Month. I encourage you to explore and share SHAPE America’s Jump Rope For Heart/Hoops For Heart resources, heart-themed activity calendars and school-based cardiac emergency response plan with your school community.

I assure you, we’ll all be doing our part to saves lives. I can attest to this from my still- beating heart.

The picture above shows me with the men who saved my life: Principal Andy Brenner, (on left), and student resource officers Al Roland and Mike Wesner of the Medina City Schools in Ohio.