The death of a popular pupil at a Warwick primary school has led to a series of emergency life support training sessions being offered to teachers, parents and children.
Coten End schoolgirl Evelyn Smith was just seven when she collapsed at her Warwick home last September.
Her mother Helen did all she could to help her daughter - sending for an ambulance and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Tragically, although Mrs Smith did everything right, she was unable to save Evelyn, who died as a result of other factors.
Since then the only comfort Mrs Smith has gained has come from her family and the knowledge that she did all she could to save her daughter’s life.
But not long after the funeral she learned that most teachers are not automatically trained in resuscitation skills and perhaps would not have known what to do if a child collapsed at school. Nor do many parents know how to perform CPR.
As a result Mrs Smith approached the joint head teachers of Coten End, Hellen Dodsworth and Sarah Sheepy, about organising training sessions at the school with the help of the British Heart Foundation.
Her close friend Jan Grewal also asked the head of Barford St Peter’s Primary School if they would also get involved with the BHF’s HeartStart programme.
Both schools agreed and last Thursday Mrs Smith was at Coten End with MP Chris White to see the last of four CPR sessions. Two classes have already been held in Barford.
At the moment only parents and school staff are being trained - but programmes have been put in place to train older children too.
At Coten End, co-head Mrs Dodsworth said: “Evelyn was the most delightful child. She was so vivacious and friendly and loved acting.
“Her death touched everyone in the school and had a massive impact on everyone who knew her.
“This HeartStart training is an excellent idea and the level of interest and uptake for the sessions we have held so far clearly demonstrates that people are keen to ensure they would know what to do if they ever found themselves in a similar situation.”
Mrs Smith, whose grief involves trying to do something positive in Evelyn’s memory, said: “The response from the headteachers at both schools and from Tim Morris at the British Heart Foundation has been amazing.
“None of these sessions - which we now hope to roll out to as many schools as possible across Coventry and Warwickshire - would have been possible without their support and commitment.”
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said: “Evelyn’s tragic story is a reminder that a cardiac arrest can affect anyone, regardless of age or apparent health.
“Performing CPR can double a person’s chances of survival so we all have a responsibility to know how to react in a medical emergency.
“We are fully behind Mrs Smith and Mrs Grewal in raising awareness of this issue and giving hundreds more teachers, parents and children the CPR skills that could save a life.”
Chris White has also offered to help in whatever way he can to roll out the idea of CPR training to schools across the UK.
n To find out more about CPR and the BHF’s HeartStart programme contact Tim Morris on 428321 or visit www.bhf.org.uk/heartstart