WINK | By Taylor Petras, Reporter and Joey Pellegrino, Writer | March 14, 2022
George Laman, a retired firefighter, paramedic and heart transplant survivor, wants students in Florida to have all the tools and training they need to save lives, after losing his teenage daughter to cardiac arrest in 2008.
Laman is a proud father. Inside his Gateway home, you’ll find a wall dedicated to Lauren, the youngest of his four children and his only daughter. He sees his passion for CPR training as a way of carrying on his daughter’s legacy from Illinois to Florida.
“She would walk in the room and she would light it up,” Laman said. “She was a sweetheart… her passion through life was dance.”
On Feb. 8, 2008, Lauren was doing what she loved, but during dance practice at school, the 18-year-old went into sudden cardiac arrest. Laman says no one performed CPR on his daughter or used the AED machine that was nearby. She died months shy of graduating from high school.
“Lauren was unresponsive, pulseless, totally blue,” Laman said. “Devastating, to say the least. We always think, including myself, ‘It can’t happen to me.’ Well, guess what: It can happen to anybody.”
The Laman family took its grief and turned it into legislation: Lauren’s Law passed in 2014, requiring high schools in Illinois to train students in CPR and AEDs.
“One of the happiest days of my life,” Laman said. “Within two days, I got an email from one of the high schools that a student went down and they did CPR, AED got the paramedics there and saved a life.”
In 2021, Florida passed a similar law requiring 9th and 11th graders to take CPR training, but Laman fears it still falls short.
“There is no equipment included, and if a school does not have the equipment to train these children, all they’re going to do is watch a video,” Laman said. “If we can reach all these kids and get them trained properly, we’re going to make a difference. We’re going to save lives.’
Laman would like to see an amendment to Florida’s law to require equipment for students to get hands-on training, and perhaps spare another family from experiencing the same tragic loss as his.
Arthrex and the American Heart Association have stepped up to donate the equipment to school districts in Southwest Florida. Lee County schools expect to start training students in April. Schools in Charlotte and Collier counties tell WINK News they have had CPR in their curriculum for a couple of years already.