After Coach Ken Wick collapsed and nearly died on a football field in the fall, the Belle Plaine School District saw his rescue as a teaching moment for its students.

So did Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, which enlisted the help of the coach to stage a mass CPR training for about 500 students in Belle Plaine in November.

The medical center hopes to repeat that mass experience at other schools and districts around the Twin Cities, in part to meet a new law that goes into effect next year mandating that high school students learn CPR before graduating.

"The whole day went well," said Wick, who is also the IT director in the school district. "They learned a lot."

The training involved a one-minute video showing how to perform CPR, hands-on demonstrations on basic compression CPR, and how to use an defibrillator to shock the heart back after it has stopped.

"We've learned that performing even just chest compression on adults suffering cardiac arrest is vitally important to saving lives," said Kevin Sipprell, an emergency room doctor at Ridgeview. "Anyone, at any age, can ... save a life."

Sipprell estimates that applying CPR within a minute after someone has gone into cardiac arrest can double or triple the chances of surviving.

Hastings High School also recently held a mass CPR training for hundreds of freshman. The training session last week was put on by Hastings Heart Restart, a local group aiming to train about 10 percent of that city's population (around 2,700 people) in basic CPR.

The group has trained about 1,000 people in the first six months of its existence. It is taking the training to the school to meet the state requirement but also to engage the students early in their lives about the value of performing CPR.

"Hopefully this will become just second nature to them, knowing what to do," said Paul Dawson, a Regina spokesman.

Sipprell said the Twin Cities area has a pretty good record of people surviving heart attacks, but that it is below the national average in getting people to be Good Samaritans and initiate CPR on someone in need.

Usually people hesitate because they are afraid they are going to hurt the person, but Dawson and others point out that without that initial help the person will likely die.

Wick said he has no doubt that his fellow coaches saved his life by performing CPR on him when he collapsed Sept. 11 on the field. Police later used a defibrillator to shock his heart.

After months of recovery, Wick shared his story before the assembled students at Belle Plaine Junior/Senior High School in November.

"It was a good thing to do," he said recently.

State mandate

The district and the medical center say the training meets the requirements of a new law requiring all school districts in Minnesota to provide compression-only CPR and defibrillator training to students in grades 7-12 at least once before they are graduated.

The medical center came up with the idea of a mass training and district officials immediately endorsed it, seeing it as a different and better way to meet the new state law.

Ridgeview hopes to spread its mass-training program to other districts and schools in the Twin Cities and is already in discussions to do so.

Belle Plaine Superintendent Kelly Smith said the district was initially going to meet the state requirement through health classes, but the incident with Wick and Ridgeview's willingness to do the mass training provided an opportunity.

Smith said he believes that having a group-participation event ingrained the training more into the minds of the students, as did hearing Wick talk about his survival.

"The fact that students see me every day and know that I am still here," Wick said, "makes it more real to them."

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281