By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Georgia Senate Bill 212, which requires high schools to provide instruction in
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), passed on March 5 with an overwhelming
44-to-6 vote. In order to become law, the measure must next pass the Georgia
House of Representatives, and it is so far uncertain when the House will take
In Rising Fawn,
meanwhile, the squeaky wheel that got the CPR issue greased said she was
pleased SB 212 had passed the Senate but only guardedly optimistic about its
future. “Well, I’m hopeful, but I was hopeful the first time I talked to him,”
said retired public health nurse Verenice Hawkins by phone last week.
By “him,” Ms.
Hawkins referred to Jeff Mullis, Dade’s state senator and the CPR bill’s
sponsor. Ms. Hawkins was glad Mullis had acted on her pet project but the word
“finally” hung heavy in the air: She’d approached Mullis about the matter over
two years ago and hadn’t heard much from him since, said Ms. Hawkins.
“I kept sending
him letters,” she said.
In any case,
Ms. Hawkins went on, she was not so happy about the senator’s advocacy on
another bill, one vouchsafing churchgoers’ right to bear arms in their houses
of worship. “I want to save somebody’s life,” she said. “I don’t want to kill
If Ms. Hawkins
sounds a bit on the testy side, readers are urged to remember two points: (a)
At 80, a woman has earned the right to speak her mind; and (b) for Ms. Hawkins,
the CPR bill comes only after two long, frustrating decades of trying to get
this simple but lifesaving emergency technique taught in the schools.
As detailed in
the Sentinel’s Oct. 3 article, Ms. Hawkin’s original quest was not so ambitious
as getting CPR onto school curricula statewide. As the county’s longtime public
health nurse, and a former substitute teacher in the local schools, Ms. Hawkins
focused initially on getting CPR into high school health classes here in
years she has plugged the idea to successive school superintendents – one told
her if a former student failed to save a life with CPR, the school system could
be sued – and with her own money bought a CPR dummy and instruction kit and
donated it to the high school health teacher. “I found out later he was only
showing them the video,” she said.
But Ms. Hawkins
never gave up and in 2010, fired up by a news story about a child who had
drowned, she approached Sen. Mullis during one of his visits to Dade. He was
initially enthusiastic, she said, and told her he would take the idea
statewide, but later the idea seemed to die. When she asked why, she said, the
senator told her it would cost too much. She pointed out the kit had cost her
$45, and anyway: “What was a life
also wrote about the matter to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who she said
emailed her back to take it up with her local representatives. “He said if they
passed it, he would give it careful consideration,” she said. “That made me
mad. I thought, big deal, Mr. Deal.” She had, after all, already tried that.
Then, just last
fall, she had her first success. After a Davis student quit breathing and was
revived by a school nurse who did CPR, Ms. Hawkins found Dade’s current
superintendent, Shawn Tobin, suddenly receptive to the idea of teaching it in
a paramedic with Puckett EMS, the ambulance provider that serves Dade,
coordinated between the schools and his employer, and he and a team of his
fellow emergency medical technicians began teaching CPR in the high school
gymnasium on Oct. 1.
said Kelley reported back to her that the program has been a success. “He said
Mr. Tobin’s already talked to him about teaching CPR next year,” she said.
heard that Kelley is under consideration for an EMT of the Year award, said Ms.
Hawkins. “I think that might have something to do with teaching CPR, don’t
you?” she said.
In any case,
Ms. Hawkins sent news of the Dade EMT class to both Mullis and the governor.
Whether or not that influenced the passage of SB 212 she can only guess, but
she said she did hear Sen. Mullis while discussing the bill on local radio
refer in connection to it to “that Ms. Hawkins in Rising Fawn.”
SB 212 requires boards of education operating a school with grades nine through
12 to provide hands-on instruction in CPR and automated defibrillator (AED) use
as part of their health or physical education courses.
practice is a required component of instruction, and local emergency service,
fire department or hospital may help with that. The program must be one
developed by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross or another
nationally recognized instructional program. The bill does not require students
to become certified in CPR.
Georgia House has announced no timetable for its consideration of the CPR bill,
but Ms. Hawkins says she’s already written to her state representative,
newly-elected Dade resident John Deffenbaugh, requesting his support for it.
Whether or not
the CPR bill makes it through the House, Ms. Hawkins says she’s not through
squeaky-wheeling for health instruction in the schools. “They need a good first
aid class,” she said. “They’re going to have families, most of them.”
And she does
admit feeling a tad vindicated that her CPR quest has finally made it to
Atlanta. “Maybe I’m just one person but I can be heard,” she said.