Hero Teen Fails CPR Test, But Revives Elderly Man

ABC News

A 16-year-old New Jersey girl received a very grown-up honor this week for reviving an elderly man who suffered a heart attack in a bowling alley.

Rockaway Borough named Christa Fairclough of Denville an honorary citizen for her heroic deed.  Fairclough sprang into action on Dec. 9  when she saw a 75-year-old man curled on the floor in a fetal position, according to  The Star-Ledger.

"I just saw nobody else was doing anything," she told the paper. "It was like I was the only one that noticed."

Fairclough had recently learned CPR in a health class but didn't receive her certificate because her hair had interfered with her ability to see the rise and fall of the mannequin's chest.

She worried she would forget what she had learned, but that evening in the bowling alley  it all came back.  The man's pulse returned after about five minutes of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions.

The man died a few days later, but his family told Fairclough they were very grateful to her.

While the proper sequence of steps and number of breaths and chest compressions can be difficult to remember, a recent study found that young people are very capable of learning and retaining the basics of CPR.

ABC News' partner MedPage Today reported that in 2009, Austrian researchers reviewed data on 147 young people between the ages of 9 and 18 who had six hours of CPR training in 2006.  About 86 percent of them performed CPR correctly, but smaller students weren't as able to compress the chest to the appropriate depth and delivered less air during the mouth-to-mouth portion.

The researchers also reported that the ability to remember the basics of CPR were "remarkably similar, if not better, than that reported in adults."

In response to the research, Dr. Benjamin Abella of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Resuscitation Science said educating children about CPR could  be very valuable.

"We always tend to give kids too little credit regarding how much they can understand and process about serious adult issues," he said. "Choosing the age for training is important, but teenagers are certainly eager and willing students for practical and important life training such as CPR."

That's life training that Fairclough worried she would forget, but in the end, it all came back.

"It just kind of came to me in the  moment," she told the newspaper.

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