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Family's loss sparks life-saving campaign page 2
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


Gwyneth was born with a heart murmur, but cardiologists consistently gave her a clean bill of health.

They told her parents that one day, Gwyneth may need surgery to replace her aortic valve, but that should wait until after her heart and body had fully developed. Aside from that, she was a normal, healthy kid.

The blond preteen danced with Patrick McGrath School of Irish Dance and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Her parents said she was always happy--and wanted to make sure everyone else was, too.

She was friends with all sorts of kids. The Griffins, who live in Heritage Oaks, have heard from other parents that Gwyneth was important in their children's lives.

One young man told Joel that Gwyneth was genuinely interested in making sure he had a good day--others mostly asked him for homework help.

"She met you once, you were her friend for life. She didn't see colors, she didn't see disabilities or social status," said her mother, Jennifer. "She saw people for who they were."


For two months after collapsing in June, Gwyneth struggled to recover.

The Griffins chronicled her condition for family and friends on CaringBridge.org. At first, her body was getting stronger; doctors thought she could be self-sufficient by the end of June, after a medicated coma. But she never woke up on her own.

Nurses gave her manicures and pedicures. Her mom styled her hair and turned on her favorite music and TV shows. Therapy dogs visited, as did family members with musical instruments.

She turned 13 on June 26, and had her braces removed soon after.

On July 3, her parents wrote, "We treat the symptoms and respond to the signs that her body is giving us, but we have reached the threshold of medical knowledge regarding how to repair a brain that has suffered such a catastrophic event. We did want each of you that care for Gwyneth as we do, to know that she is no longer able to share her spirit with us except in our hearts and memories."

They were looking at long-term care facilities. Then on July 30, Gwyneth passed away.


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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.