Sixth-grader’s science project grows into adult-sized study showing kids can do CPR, too

Eashan Biswas demonstrates the CPR skills he – and his fellow sixth graders – learned, thanks to his science project. (Photo courtesy of Mimi Biswas, M.D.)

ANAHEIM, California – At first, Eashan Biswas was just looking for a way to use a video game in his sixth-grade science project. But now, the aspiring doctor’s name is on a scientific study being presented on a national stage – and, more importantly, he’s making a way to spread lifesaving CPR to fellow students.

The study is being released Saturday and presented Monday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference, where thousands of scientists and doctors from across the world share new research and exchange ideas.

The crux of Eashan’s study – conducted with his mom, Mimi Biswas, M.D., a cardiologist at Riverside Community Hospital in California and Beth Zeleke, M.D., an internal medicine resident at the same hospital – is that children as young as 12 successfully use CPR. The researchers assessed the ability of 160 kids who were 12 years old on average to perform on adults using a video, music and a video game to keep the proper rhythm of chest compressions.

“To go from making a video game to realizing he can touch the lives of so many people and save a human life. How important is that? It’s more important than any science project,” Biswas said.

The students in the study were divided into three groups. Each watched a video from the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools Training Kit. It shows how to perform the goal of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute at a depth of 2 inches, triggering a click on an adult CPR manikin.

One group added listening to music with a tempo matching the compression rate goal. The third group watched a video game that Eashan created through a visual programming language called Scratch coding to teach the compression rate. Then they all tested their skills on manikins.

The results? Most of the children remembered to call 911, and well over three-fourths did CPR in the correct location. But the group who watched the AHA video and played the video game had the highest number of correct depth “clicks” on the manikin. The group also had 95 percent of the kids perform CPR in the correct location — with 102 compressions per minute.

Zeleke, who said her grandfather died from a cardiac arrest and no one nearby was trained in CPR, believes the new study shows CPR skills can be part of ongoing training in schools. And it can begin as early as 12 years old.

In fact, many younger children are learning CPR in schools and community centers nationwide. Stories about a middle schooler saving a parent, or even a teacher, have been around for years. Kiosks teaching the compression-only technique are spreading to major airports.

Currently, 37 states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws or adopted curriculum changes to require hands-on, guidelines-based CPR training to graduate high school. The AHA is lobbying state legislatures across the country to spread those requirements.

Less than half of the more than 350,000 Americans who experience cardiac arrests outside a hospital each year receive bystander CPR before medical help arrives. Only about one in 10 survives — the odds of which are higher for people who receive bystander CPR, according to statistics from the AHA.

“CPR is not a skill you acquire once. We have to learn it throughout our lives as clinicians. You need to practice,” Zeleke said. “Teaching kids at a younger age and continuing that” could help create a lifelong skill.

Eashan is working to make that happen.

What began as a plan to teach his class spread to the whole sixth-grade class at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Riverside. Now, he and his mom have a proposal pending with the Unified Riverside School District to spread the training district-wide. If approved, internal medicine residency students at Riverside Community Hospital would perform community service by teaching Hands-Only CPR to all sixth-grade students in the district.

“I hope this will grow to everyone,” Eashan said. “Because it is important to learn CPR in case something happens. Cardiac arrest is really common throughout the world. It’s important for everyone to learn CPR.”

Eashan is now in seventh grade and thinking of being a doctor when he grows up. And yes, he got a good grade on his science project.

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