They’re everywhere: Automatic External Defibrillators or AEDs. But do you know how to use one and would you feel comfortable using the device in case of an emergency? Now, a new law passed just this week, will ensure the answer is yes for Illinois high school students.
George Laman, Lauren’s father: My daughter Lauren, I always considered her the glue of our family. She was the youngest. She was our only daughter. She wanted to be a dancer, and eventually she wanted to be a dance teacher. She got started at an early age, continued … She would stay for extra classes, ‘Mom is it OK I watch the girls?’ Pretty soon it became ‘Mom, can I teach the younger girls?’. I mean, she loved it. She had a passion and it was incredible.
Lauren Laman’s talent soared. A star on the drill team at St Charles North High School, her graceful, high leaps set her apart. But on February 8, 2008, Lauren came crashing down.
Mary Laman, Lauren’s mother: The phone rang and it was I heard the message actually, I was trying to get to the phone. And it just said “Mrs. Laman, Lauren collapsed and is seizing”. All I kept thinking is when I got the call was she must of fallen and hit her head. I wasn’t thinking anything tragic or life threatening until I walked into that room. And then I saw her. The paramedics were already there. And when I looked at her, I was actually on the phone with my husband and I said “Oh my god, I think she’s dead.” Because she was blue from her face to her hands.
Lauren was in sudden cardiac arrest. Her heart was beating so fast it was quivering / fibrillating, unable to properly pump blood throughout her body.
The Laman’s estimate approximately 13 minutes passed from the time a 911 call was placed and paramedics arrived. What action was taken by bystanders — including a coach and a certified athletic trainer — during that critical time is unclear. An electrical shock to the heart may have restored Lauren’s normal rhythm. CPR would have helped the flow of oxygen to her organs.
Once at the emergency room, it became clear to George — a paramedic and firefighter — too much time had passed.
George Laman: I went into the room, and just observed what the doctors were doing and nurses and they were doing an excellent job. And finally I got to a point where I put my hand on the doctor’s shoulder and I said, ‘You can stop now.’ Because I knew she was dead. And I knew there was no way of bringing her back.
Six years after their daughter’s death — instead of celebrating graduations, a first job or any of the typical milestones — George and Mary were at an Illinois house committee meeting, pleading with lawmakers. They’ve redirected their overwhelming grief into action – in Lauren’s honor and with the help of local representatives, House Bill 3724 – passed this week — will help ease any intimidation or fear when it comes to using an AED.
Mary Laman: People saw her, they saw her collapse. They were all within seconds of her side. This can’t happen. They have to know what to do. They have to know where it is. They have to know how to use it.
And that’s the purpose of the Lauren Laman Law. The target of the legislation — high schoolers. In schools that already offer training students say the lessons have helped them build confidence.
The law, championed by representative Dan Burke, provides for general CPR training and AED use, and will now be included in health education in all Illinois high schools.
It’s a lesson that will last a lifetime.