Weather Updates

Lauren Laman Bill would require student training for CPR and defibrillator use

The Laman family from left  (mother) Mary (father) George Ryan Neal  Matthew gather around picture Lauren Laman 18

The Laman family from left, (mother) Mary, (father) George, Ryan, Neal and Matthew gather around a picture of Lauren Laman, 18, in 2008 at their St. Charles home shorlty after Lauren died of an undetected heart defect. | Sun-Times Media file

storyidforme: 59365318
tmspicid: 21582342
fileheaderid: 10181250

Named after St. Charles North student who died from SCA at school

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: January 18, 2014 6:18AM

Today would have been Lauren Laman’s 24th birthday.

Instead of celebrating what should be a happy occasion, her parents are urging legislators to require all Illinois high school students to learn how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED), something that might have saved the 18-year-old’s life.

A senior at St. Charles North High School, Lauren was practicing with the varsity drill team in February 2008 when she collapsed on the cafeteria floor from sudden cardiac arrest.

Although an AED had been located just 40 feet from where she collapsed and paramedics found the device next to her when they arrived more than 12 minutes after the call, the AED was never used. Lauren was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Despite being surrounded by teammates, coaches and school staff, no one did the one thing that could have saved Lauren’s life.

“I cannot accept that,” said her mother, Mary Laman. “She should be here celebrating her birthday … . She should be celebrating Christmas.”

Lauren’s father, George Laman, sees House Bill 3724 — which would require teaching students CPR and AED use — as an opportunity to save lives now and, more importantly, in the future. “We lose 335,000 people every year to sudden cardiac arrest,” the former fire department paramedic said.

The reason for targeting high school students is because teenagers are most apt to act in an emergency situation and the skills can be applied later in life, officials say.

Mary recalled learning the Heimlich maneuver when she was in high school. While at the time she didn’t think much of the training, it wasn’t until her husband was choking years later that Mary saw the importance and was able to react.

The same could be said for teaching how to use an AED and training ongoing generations. “The results would be tremendous,” George said.

Easy to use

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. The heart beats so quickly that it quivers and is no longer able to pump blood to the rest of the body. It usually causes death if it is not treated within minutes.

An AED is a medical device that can check a person’s heart as well as shock it back to a normal rhythm if the person is experiencing cardiac arrest. The device tells the user where to put the pads on the patient’s chest, then the AED automatically analyzes the patient’s vital signs and determines if a shock is necessary. It will not shock a patient if it is not necessary.

Today’s AED machines are so easy that even a child can use one, and George cited research to back it up.

A 1999 study by the University of Washington took 15 Seattle six-graders who had no medical training and asked them to not only learn to use an AED but to put it to use on a mannequin in a mock cardiac arrest situation. The same scenario was repeated for 22 emergency medical technicians/paramedics who had extensive knowledge and use of an AED.

Not only did the AED guide the kids to the correct electrode pad placement, all remained clear of the “patient” during shock delivery. And kids came close to the same treatment times as the adults. It took the kids roughly 90 seconds to administer the life-saving defibrillation, compared to 50 seconds for the experts.

George, who worked as a paramedic for 11 years, understands the importance of time.

“It’s frustrating for paramedics to be unable to reach, treat and defibrillate a cardiac patient in time to afford them a good chance to survive,” he said. “Those precious minutes that Lauren laid on the floor without defibrillation, especially with the AED just feet away from her, makes our story especially sad. We can’t have those minutes back. We can’t have Lauren back. Hopefully, this terrible experience will help pass this bill and provide a change so others do not needlessly die.”

“My family made a promise that we would do everything in our power to prevent this from happening to anyone else,” he added.

Purpose to law

With that mission in mind, George sought guidance from Sean Wieber, whose friend and football teammate died on the practice field at Northwestern University in 2001. Upon graduation from law school, Wieber worked on the Rashidi A. Wheeler law, which went into effect in 2009 and requires AEDs at outdoor fitness facilities.

Wieber directed George to contact state Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), who introduced the Wheeler bill and since 1997 has lead the charge on AED legislation.

To help prevent another school tragedy like Lauren’s, Burke introduced House Bill 3724, also known as the Lauren Laman Bill, in October. It would require high school students to receiving training in administering cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an AED. The instruction will be a prerequisite to graduate.

“Lauren may still be alive today if the AED had been used immediately after she collapsed,” said Burke, who coincidentally shares a birthday with Lauren.

“All Illinois schools have to provide AEDs by law,” Burke said. “What purpose does this life-saving device serve if students, teachers and coaches don’t know where it is located or how to use it?”

Fifteen other states currently require CPR and/or AED training in high schools.

Even the Illinois State Board of Education has endorsed a video provided by the Northwestern University Department of Emergency Medicine that can be used to train students about “hands only” CPR and the use of the AED.

Mary is hopeful the legislation will pass.

“Lauren was so loving and giving,” she said. “This (bill) would be her gift.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.