AKRON, N.Y. -- More than 400 students at Akron High School are equipped with life-saving training, following the loss of a fellow student. Now, the goal is to make that happen in schools statewide.
Two years ago, Emily Rose Adamczak was at a local soccer practice, when she collapsed. Doctors didn't know it beforehand, but Emily had a serious medical condition that caused sudden cardiac arrest.
Emily didn't receive CPR for five minutes after she collapsed, and her family and friends always wonder if her life could have been saved.
Since that day, Emily's mother Annette has made it her mission to get more people trained in CPR. She worked with Rural Metro, the local fire departments, and other organizations to do community CPR training sessions.
Then, Annette set her sights on the high school. With the wholehearted support of the principal, she worked with the American Heart Association, Rural Metro and others to train every high school student in CPR and how to operate an automated external defibrillator or AED.
That training recently wrapped up.
"I just don't think that any other family should have to go through this," Annette said. "Not at such a young age should their child, should their sibling have to pass."
Emily Rose Adamczak was as outgoing a 14-year-old as you could find. She was active in many sports, including soccer, track, swimming and volleyball.
"She loved sports," her mom said. "She loved the outdoors. She could tell you a million and one facts about animals."
Emily Rose was extremely close to her siblings, especially her younger sister Shelby, who spoke with 2 On Your Side.
"She was a very perky, fun-filled, cheerful girl," Shelby said. "She was always looking for the greater good in things."
Shelby was also at the soccer practice, out on the field, when Emily collapsed.
"Honestly, it pulled me apart from the inside out," Shelby recounted. "It was my best friend. It was my big sister. She was mine."
Shelby said the entire community has been affected by the loss, and many have attended community CPR training sessions in Emily's honor.
Until recently, Annette was unaware of a bill in the New York State Legislature that would require CPR and AED training in all high schools. Now, Annette joins the Heart Association in their lobbying effort for that bill.
Bills like this have faced opposition in the past -- and continue to -- because some consider this proposal to be an unfunded mandate. However, Josh Lawrence, a board member with the local American Heart Association, said a cost-benefit analysis shows the bill is needed.
"(If) you think of the minimal cost it would be to implement this, you really realize that this bill makes a lot of sense," Lawrence said.
Principal Joe Lucenti said he normally opposes requirements from Albany, but this is a bill he fully supports.
"Personally I hate mandates," Principal Lucenti said. "But you know, when you think about this, the cost of this is so minimal if anything that it's almost ridiculous not to do it."
Lawrence said the only cost to districts would be for the mannequins, which may cost a couple hundred dollars; however, most districts could partner with non-profits and health care businesses to provide them for free. For instance, Rural Metro provided the mannequins used at Akron.
"It's sad that it would take a mandate to do it, but it would be one of the few mandates that I would ever support," the principal said. "It makes sense, it's very very cost-efficient, and you're teaching kids a skill for a lifetime."
In addition to championing CPR training, Annette and others have raised thousands of dollars to install 3 AED machines at the local athletic fields in Akron. This year, they plan to add a fourth.
The machines, which cost about $2,500 each, are connected to a phone line, and when removed immediately call 911.
"By having this hooked up to the auto-dial system, 911 can be immediately dispatched, and you asve critical moments when you're talking about a life," Annette said. "Every minute does really count... Every second counts."
A fund is set up in Emily Rose Adamczak's name at the Bank of Akron, and the money raised supports the purchasing of more AED machines and a scholarship at Akron High School.
INACTION IN ALBANY
Several bills dealing with CPR training in schools have been proposed in the legislature over the past decade or so; some of the proposed bills even passed one house of the legislature. But there hasn't been enough support to get them into law.
Proponents hope this year may be different.
Before 2 On Your Side started digging into this story, three local legislators were co-sponsors of the bill -- Senators Maziarz and Grisanti and Assemblyman Burling.
2 On Your Side contacted the other 15 members of the WNY delegation.
Now, four more have either signed on as co-sponsors or plan to do so this week -- Senator Gallivan and Assemblymen Ryan, Ceretto and Giglio.
Four other legislators -- Senators Young and Ranzenhofer and Assembly Members Peoples-Stokes and Gabryszak -- said they will vote yes if the bill comes to a vote. Ranzenhofer already did so in a Senate Education Committee vote. A fifth legislator, Assemblyman Schimminger, said he supports the requirement if it gets support from schools. He said he will be "watching for their position."
Several other members of the Assembly said they are supportive of the idea of CPR training, but they cannot support the current bill, because they called it an unfunded mandate. Those Assembly members include Corwin, Smardz, Walter and Hawley.
UPDATE 3/28/12: State Senator Tim Kennedy has also signed on as a co-sponsor. There are now 29 total co-sponsors in the State Senate and 48 in the State Assembly.
According to the American Heart Association, only 3 states -- Alabama, Iowa and Rhode Island -- require all students be trained in CPR before graduation. Many hope New York will become the fourth.
2 On Your Side will continue to follow this story as well as the national conversation to explore if federal intervention is needed and what New York can learn from other states.
Several members of our WNY delegation released statements to explain their positions on this issue:
Assemblyman Ray Walter: "I have been very supportive of the Adamczak family in the past, working with them during my time in the County Legislature to get the AEDs installed at the athleric fields in Akron Falls Park. While I support the concept of requiring CPR training in schools, I would only support such a mandate if it came with funding from the state. Our schools and municipalities are already overburdened with Albany's unfunded mandates."
Assemblywoman Jane Corwin: "The safety of our students and CPR training are top priorities, since they are top priorities I want to make sure that a program like this is fully funded. Because our schools are struggling with their budgets, they do not have the resources to fund additional programs. That is why I am working for Unfunded Mandate Relief for schools. I am prepared to sign on this bill as a co-sponsor, when schools have the resources to fund new programs. In the meantime, I am going to continue to advocate for community-based training programs."
Assemblyman Robin Schimminger: "I certainly encourage students, faculty and staff of school districts to learn how to perform CPR and how to operate an AED machine. If, indeed, school districts support such a state law requiring training in schools, then I would concur. I'll be watching for their position."
Senator Patrick Gallivan: "This legislation will save lives and protect students, faculty, and staff in Western New York's schools. The cost to install and maintain an Automated External Defibrillator devide in close proximity to athletic facilities, and to conduct basic CPR training in schools is minimal when compared to many other frivolous mandates. I will work with the New York State Board of Regents to eliminate other mandated items, to ensure every district can afford to implement these lifesaving tools."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan: "It is usually best to avoid putting new mandates in place, but this legislation will offer students the opportunity to learn a critically important life skill. The best case scenario is to have as many students as possible who are properly trained in CPR."