Saturday, June 12, 2021

Twenty Years of Student CPR

Twenty years ago, Marco Island Charter Middle School’s Physical Fitness Instructor, Cheryl Toth, asked the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department to help train students in water safety. Mrs. Toth worked with former Battalion Chief Donny Jones to develop a course, which became a regular part of the curriculum for all eighth-grade students.

This year saw more than 100 students successfully complete the course which included adult, child and infant CPR, as well as the use of an AED. The students learn best practices when it comes to life-saving techniques, including the Heimlich maneuver, and are certified by the American Heart Association (AHA) upon completing the course. According to the AHA there isn’t an age requirement to take the course but there is a strength requirement.

Imagine over 2,000 people with the ability to save a life, all through Mrs. Toth’s class! Of course, best practices will change with time, as more is learned about the scientific nature of how the body reacts to specific measures. Just one reason AHA certification is only good for two years and requires a refresher class to remain valid.

Chris Bowden, a paramedic firefighter for the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department was the facilitator of the course at Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS) this year, along with Tony Gordon, Dirk Switken, Pat O’Gorman, Brian Asbell, and Hafid Oliver. Bowden is a native Marco Islander. He came full circle when he started teaching CPR at MICMS about five years ago, as he took his first CPR course through Cheryl Toth’s class years earlier.

Bowden credits teamwork for the program’s success. “Since my involvement with this program, I’ve found the only way to make it work is teamwork. Not just with myself and the instructors, but with the PE teachers as well. Mrs. Toth and Mr. Radlovacki do a great job assisting us in scheduling and prepping the week-long program.”

Since becoming a firefighter, Bowden was directly involved in saving the lives of seven people whose heart had stopped. The AHA states, “If performed immediately, CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”

According to Bowden, “The three most crucial aspects for survival of someone in cardiac arrest is early recognition, quality CPR and early defibrillation. Of course the first thing to do in any emergency is have someone call 911, then immediately begin CPR.” 

This year, a popular addition was made to the class when the students heard about the MIFRD’s canine mannequin. They requested training for it, too. With just a few extra minutes of training students can now resuscitate man’s best friend! If interested, the MIFRD has an emergency pet care card which is to be completed and kept on the refrigerator. In case of emergency, the card helps the department find care for your pet if you’re not able to care for them. One can also sign up to offer pet foster care.

Once a month the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department offers CPR classes to the public free of charge at Fire Station #50. MIFRD will provide training at your place of business for larger groups. Watch for more information on upcoming canine CPR training sessions.

For more information call 239-389-5040. Chris Bowden can be contacted at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *