OCEAN SPRINGS -- A new law, passed in 2014, requires all high school seniors in the state be taught CPR in order to graduate.
It's still a really new requirement, and schools are working out how to get it done.
But Ocean Springs High School has it down, and on Thursday, students even had two guest cardiologists teaching the class.
The idea statewide is to create a larger pool of people who know the life-saving procedure, one that no longer requires breathing into the mouth of a heart-attack victim.
In Mississippi, the pool will grow by at least 26,000 this year, the number of graduating seniors.
That could be key to changing national statistics.
At present, the American Heart Association gives only a 11 percent chance of survival if a person has a heart attack somewhere other than a hospital. The survival rate is poor because so few people know CPR, said Christin LeBoeuf, AHA regional vice president.
In Mississippi, the organization is starting to make headway pairing schools with people who want to sponsor its CPR teaching kits.
The law leaves it up to the schools to figure out how to handle the training.
The association's kit contains instructional materials and 10 CPR mannequins to practice on. With four students to a mannequin, a school can train a whole class at one time. The cost of the kit is $5,000, thus the need for sponsors, but sponsors are beginning to step forward, LeBoeuf said.
Starting at schools
Some of the students were worried about breaking someone's ribs, a teacher told the two doctors at OSHS on Thursday.
Dr. Mahmoud Zayed and Dr. William Passarelli's Southern Mississippi Heart Center donated a kit to the school and were donating some time, too.
Zayed, head of cardiology at Ocean Springs Hospital, said he knows how important all of this is for the community.
"For right now, it's very, very important for everyone in this room to learn CPR," he told the class, "to have someone one in every home that knows it."
He and Passarelli told the kids to press hard and keep it up after they start.
"The person is effectively dead," Zayed said. "You want to bring him back to life. Ribs will heal."
Passarelli said, "You can't push too hard. You may hear breaking of a rib or two or crack the sternum, but don't let that stop you."
They went over the whole technique with CPR dummies: knees next to the body, shoulders over the chest, use your weight to push to the beat of "Stayin' Alive" -- about 100 compressions a minute.
They also listed the symptoms: It's commonly a tight chest during exercise that could radiate to the jaw or back. There may, however, be no discomfort. For women there may be shortness of breath when stressed by actions other than exercise.
So far, the Heart Association has lined up sponsorships for St. Patrick High School and OSHS and has money for Pascagoula and Stone County high schools.
With this move, Mississippi joins 17 other states with the CPR law for high schools, including Alabama. State law says students have to be exposed to the technique, they don't have to be certified.