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Family's loss sparks life-saving campaign
North Stafford parents cite the death of their daughter and ask that all teachers in Stafford be certified in CPR

 A photo of Gwyneth Griffin and some of her personal items are kept together as family keepsakes. The teenager died after she collapsed outside a Stafford middle school.
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Date published: 10/1/2012

BY KATIE THISDELL

On a humid Friday morning in June, Gwyneth Griffin was running with her classmates on the track at A.G. Wright Middle School.

Excitement was high for the seventh-graders since SOL tests were over and summer was about to start.

Gwyneth's father, Joel Griffin, was visiting both of his daughters' schools that day. Neighboring Garrisonville Elementary was his second stop.

But a little after 10 a.m. on June 8, the middle school students ran to find Gwyneth's dad.

The 12-year-old had collapsed. Her heart had apparently stopped; she had no pulse and wasn't breathing.

"There was no one else taking care of my daughter, so I had to," said Joel, during an interview with his wife, Jennifer, in their North Stafford home.

The couple now knows that the first two minutes are the most critical for getting oxygen to the brain. Otherwise, severe damage can occur.

After spending nearly two months at VCU Medical Center, Gwyneth died at the end of July.

"Those two minutes may have made the difference and she could be here today," Joel said.

The lack of immediate response to save their eldest daughter's life has led the Griffins to press for school employees who work with students in Stafford County to be CPR certified. They hope one day training will be required for teachers statewide under what could be called "Gwyneth's Law," to ensure that schools have the resources they need in emergency situations.

"The teachers are in many ways the first responders," Joel Griffin told the Board of Supervisors' public safety committee recently.

So far, county officials and supervisors have responded positively to the proposal.

"We should have thought of this sooner," County Supervisor Jack Cavalier said recently. He promised to seek financial support for CPR training, which could cost $45,000 a year.

However, School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Johnson said she couldn't comment on the proposal until after reviewing current policies. The Joint Schools Working Committee will take up the issue soon.

Students at A.G. Wright Middle School have pushed for CPR classes, which could be offered to families this fall through support from the Fire & Rescue Department, said principal William Boatwright.

A 'FRIEND FOR LIFE'


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Susan Hulsey, a CPR instructor in Stafford, hopes more people learn life-saving techniques. She has been offering reduced-rate classes in memory of Gwyneth Griffin, who was in her son's elementary school classes. She said Gwyneth had a "smile that could light up the world" and was her son's first crush.

Most of the fees she collects have gone to Ronald McDonald House Charities in Richmond and to VCU Medical Center.

She offers reduced rates "so that scout leaders, coaches, nursery volunteers will come and get certified, even if it isn't required."

The American Red Cross offers regular CPR classes at its Rappahannock Area Chapter offices. The American Heart Association also offers classes at the Mary Washington Hospital.

Stafford's Fire & Rescue Department is partnering with A.G. Wright Middle School to provide low-cost classes to students, their families and other community organizations. Plans are still in the works.