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After tragic loss, Ronan Guyer’s family pushes for CPR education in schools statewide

Ronan Guyer would have turned 17 years old this month.

But the Southold teen will not celebrate his birthday on April 24; Ronan died tragically when he was only 14, after sudden cardiac arrest during a warm-up before the New York State cross-country championships in Elma.

And now his grandparents, Barbara and John Schmidt, are asking the public to join them in urging the New York State Board of Regents to say yes to CPR training in high schools statewide so that other lives might be saved and other families spared the unthinkable.

Ronan’s death stunned the Southold community; family and friends stood for hours to pay their respects at his funeral and shared stories of the beloved teen, who was active in sports, including sailing, skiing tennis and lacrosse, as well as Scouting and the NJROTC.

On Tuesday, his grandparents sent a letter to every member of the New York Board of Regents, asking them to include Hands-Only CPR in the New York curriculum. And they’re asking the public to join them in their plea: To send a letter, click here.

According to his grandmother Barbara Schmidt, the American Heart Association advocating and campaigned for New York State to become the 22nd state in the nation to teach CPR and provide automatic defibrillator training in high schools.

The goal, Schmidt said, is for every graduating high school senior to be educated in the life-saving procedures.

“This is not a political issue,” she said.

Last fall, the legislation was signed into law by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. But efforts are stalled as the waiting game continues, with the state education department yet to make a recommendation to the Board of Regents, a step necessary before the program can be implemented in schools, she said.

The letters are part of the American Heart Association’s “You’re the Cure” Take Action program. “It’s wonderful, there won’t be a huge cost associated — and it will save lives,” Schmidt said.

Her grandson, Schmidt said, is not the only person who lost his life to sudden cardiac arrest. “This happens to so many people and some are survivors, while others are not. This just increases your chances,” she said.

The training is meant to keep a victim alive until emergency paramedics arrive, Schmidt said. Advocating for change in Albany, Schmidt said she heard uplifting stories that fueled her mission, including a story about a young father who collapsed and was saved by his daughter, who had only just learned CPR.

To that end, she said, “There’s a big push to get people to write to the Board of Regents to get this moving.”

Reflecting on her grandson, she said, “There’s this feeling of frustration, that we weren’t able to do anything to save him — and we don’t want to have it happen to someone else’s son or grandson. That’s the bottom line. Ronan was a great kid. Everyone handles things in their own way, and it just made us feel better, to do something proactive.”

She added, “Hopefully, we’ll have good news soon. Ronan’s birthday is next Friday. He’d be 17. So it’s just a good time to for this, to keep his memory alive.”