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Call to teach CPR in schools

February 15 2019

High school cardiac arrest survivor endorses call to teach CPR in schools

Kenneth Yew owes his life to the quick response of fellow students and teachers at Hamilton’s Hillcrest High School.

After surviving a shock cardiac arrest at 16 years old, he is endorsing calls by the NZ Resuscitation Council to teach CPR in schools as part of the core curriculum.

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of his near-death experience, and Mr Yew believes his story offers living proof that the government should support this “common sense” policy.

“It was around 11 o’clock in a physical education class. We were warming up, a couple of friends and I were mucking around,” says Mr Yew, now 26 and a practicing accountant in Hamilton.

“I ankle tapped someone, they went to ankle tap me back, then I fell over and never got up.”

Initially his friends thought he was joking, but as the deadly seriousness of the situation became apparent they sprang into action, performing CPR as teachers and the school nurse ran to help.

“We were fortunate enough the nurse arrived to direct people, but let’s say it was in a different setting, if it was just me and a couple of friends, it might be a whole different story,” says Mr Yew.

“If the group of people you’re with knows the basics of what to do in that situation, it can greatly increase the chances of someone surviving.”

In the thirteen minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive, the school’s defibrillator was rushed to his side and multiple shocks delivered.

Mr Yew’s heart began beating again just as paramedics arrived at the scene.

“I was quite lucky in that aspect,” he says.

“After I got revived they took me to ICU where I was put into an induced coma for two days. My parents were told that there might be some brain damage and whatnot so yeah, they were quite surprised really.”

With New Zealand’s survival rates still lower than they could be, he is urging politicians to step up and help Kiwi kids save lives with compulsory CPR training.

“End of the day, it really shouldn’t be a debate. This is giving students an opportunity, equipping them with the skills to potentially save someone’s life one day,” says Mr Yew.

“People just need to consider if it was you that had a cardiac arrest next to one of these students, you’d want them to be able to help you the best they can. Why not start them young?”


Sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in industrialized nations, and ischaemic heart disease is the second most prevalent cause of death in our country.

A professional response by paramedics and physicians generally takes at least five minutes to arrive, and the brain starts to die after 3-5 minutes.

In most cases, bystanders who witness such a collapse can perform at least basic chest compressions, the key procedure to protect the brain from dying.

Approximately 12% of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims in New Zealand survive following emergency CPR.

This figure is an improvement upon the past, but the NZ Resuscitation Council is confident we can do better.


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