February is Heart Health Awareness Month and in honor the Pecatonica Community Middle School held a Heart Health Assembly on Friday, February 7. The students listened to guest speaker, Kristen Walenga, played heart-themed games, and enjoyed a game of teacher/student musical chairs. Fifth grade through seventh grade was dismissed and the 8th graders were trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) by Andrea McGrew (Nurse) and Heather Baker (Curriculum Director).
Kristen Walenga, an Illinois resident and Special Education teacher went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest at home in August of 2019. Luckily, her high school aged son had learned CPR in middle school, and remembered the skills well enough to save her life. Her story is truly amazing…
Kristen, a mother of four, was at home preparing breakfast for her family before heading out to take her two young sons to football when she suddenly collapsed in her kitchen and slid to the floor. At first her children thought she was joking, but Louie, the dog, started howling and the kids immediately realized the situation was serious. Kristen’s young sons 9 and 11 yelled for help, called 9-1-1, and ran to get the neighbors. Her 14 year old daughter secured the dog as they waited for the ambulance. Kristen’s 15 year old high school son, hearing the commotion, emerged from his bedroom located in the basement, recognized that his mother was experiencing a medical emergency and immediately started CPR. He had learned CPR in school as a 7th grader and was able to administer chest compressions until the ambulance arrived. Her young family acted quickly and ultimately saved their Mother’s life!
Kristen finished her compelling story and directed her words to the 8th grader who were going to be trained in CPR after the assembly and told them how grateful she was that her son had been trained, able to practice CPR, and how important it was to “listen, learn and practice”. She appreciated that her son was brave enough to do something. She was sure that her son was afraid but said that, “Being brave sometimes means looking fear in the face and telling it to move over because you are in the way.”
Thank you Kristen for sharing your story with the students and staff of Pecatonica Community Middle School #321.