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Health & Safety
| Feb 03, 2022

The Story Behind Maryland’s Mandatory CPR & AED Training

By Paul Ohanian | Photo courtesy of Breanna Sudano

Since 2015, all high school students in Maryland have been required to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator) in order to graduate. It’s a state requirement, passed into law by Martin O’Malley, who was the governor at the time.

As a high school student when the legislation was being debated in Maryland’s General Assembly, Breanna Sudano served as a strong advocate in support of the law. She would spend at least two afternoons each week in Annapolis, meeting with legislators and asking for their support. That commitment makes perfect sense since the law that was eventually enacted is named in her honor.

Officially listed as House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 503, it's more commonly known throughout the state as Breanna’s Law.

As a freshman on the Perry Hall High School JV field hockey team in 2011 (she also played lacrosse), Sudano collapsed during a game at Catonsville, just after scoring the winning goal. Her heart stopped beating and she stopped breathing. She was in cardiac arrest.

“I was unresponsive and turning blue,” Sudano says.

Alertly, a group of bystanders including two coaches and three parents saved Sudano’s life by immediately starting CPR. They took turns performing CPR for over eight minutes until an AED was located to shock Sudano’s heart and restore her heartbeat. An ambulance then transported her to the hospital, where she remained in a semi-comatose condition for two days.

“I woke up very confused,” said Sudano, who fortunately suffered no organ or brain damage from the incident. “I had never had any previous signs of a heart condition and had always been active in a lot of sports.”

Further tests revealed a congenital heart defect, called anomalous left coronary artery, that limited the blood flow in her heart. It’s a rare condition that doctors would not typically detect with a routine EKG or physical exam. Open heart surgery repaired the defect and allowed Sudano to return to an active lifestyle.

“I’m passionate about CPR and AEDs because they saved my life,” said Sudano, now 23 and living in Wilmington, N.C. “Something that could have been such a sad story had a real positive outcome because there were people who knew how to do CPR.”

While Maryland was the first state to mandate CPR and AED instruction as a requirement for graduation, many other states have also followed suit. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association notes that 36 states and the District of Columbia now require CPR education for all students before high school graduation.

Through the years, Sudano has worked with the American Heart Association (AHA) to keep sharing her story and spreading the CPR and AED message. AHA estimates that sudden cardiac arrest kills upwards of 300,000 people annually. Performing immediate CPR and using a defibrillator can double a victim’s chance of survival. 

“I feel like it’s my obligation to keep talking about this,” Sudano said. “Cardiac arrest can happen anywhere and at any time, with no warning signs. There’s nothing more beautiful than being able to save someone’s life.”

In 2019, USA Lacrosse launched a collaboration with the American Heart Association to meet the needs of local lacrosse teams and leagues with the development of an easy-to-use CPR & First Aid in Youth Sports Training Kit. This portable training kit is designed to facilitate training for youth coaches to ensure they know the lifesaving skills of CPR, how to use an AED, and how to help during sports related emergencies.

USA Lacrosse also encourages leagues and teams to have an on-site AED for all games and practices. These portable and easy-to-use devices deliver potentially life-saving defibrillation therapy quickly and effectively. USA Lacrosse members receive discounted pricing on AEDs through Stryker, the official AED provider of USA Lacrosse and the U.S. National Teams.

Members can get further information about discounted AED pricing by contacting Stryker