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The man appeared to be unconscious. His head was bleeding. Liz Lindgren wasn't sure whether he had a pulse.

"Should I try to give him CPR?" the 16-year-old asked her older sister, who also had seen the man wipe out on his motorcycle, hitting a concrete bridge embankment just ahead of their family's car on Hwy. 61 near Red Wing.

"Yes, yes, just go over!" Stephanie Lindgren said frantically as she called 911.

Liz, now a junior at Champlin Park High School, had recently become CPR-certified — one of 1,030 Anoka-Hennepin students to have done so during the past school year, as part of a health-class curriculum. She said that as a young girl she dreamed of what it might be like to save somebody's life.

It's something that Jeff Richards, leader of the Blaine High School health department, also thought about for years. Richards' mother died when he was 15. She had ruptured her spleen, but didn't realize it. She was lying in bed when Richards asked her if he could get her anything. She died without warning, squeezing his hand.

Richards said he would have called for help, had he known. At Blaine High, Richards often asks his students, "If you could save a life, why wouldn't you?"

Last year, Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a CPR Training in Schools bill, which will require school districts to provide one-time, hands-on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automatic external defibrillator instruction to all students between grades 7 and 12. It will go into effect in the 2014-15 school year, but Anoka-Hennepin hasn't waited.

Richards founded a program, piloted it and presented it to the school board. With two dozen health teachers throughout the district on board, sixth-grade students get basic CPR education and a partial certification, followed by a refresher course in the eighth grade. Then in high school (10th or 11th grade) students are taught a variety of CPR skills over five days. Included are adult, child and infant CPR; adult, child and infant conscious and unconscious choking response, and how to use a defibrillator. Students also can choose to become CPR-certified by watching 18 instructional videos and passing online tests.

"Why wouldn't we want to get these kids certified?" Richards asked recently.

Lindgren's story

Liz Lindgren, who learned CPR basics from health instructor Cory Davis, did become certified. She never imagined she'd be applying her knew skills so soon — in a seeming life-and-death situation.

But in July, as she and her family were headed to Winona, they saw a man spin out on his motorcycle before crashing violently.

Now that Liz was about to get her chance, she was terrified.

"I was really scared," she said, recalling how the motorcyclist, clad in sandals and shorts but not wearing a helmet, was bleeding from head to toe.

Liz remembers another cyclist rushing over to his fallen comrade, asking, "Randy, Randy, are you OK?" Liz didn't wait for a response.

"Thirty compressions, then two breaths," she thought to herself, just as Davis, her instructor, taught her in school.

"I was really, really nervous," she recalled. But she continued to administer the compressions — as motorists slowed down to gawk and sirens could be heard in the distance.

The injured man began to move. Liz watched as his eyes were suddenly visible.

Then the ambulance arrived, and the man was taken to a hospital. The police interviewed Liz's parents, and soon the family was back on the road, heading to Winona, where Stephanie now attends college.

Making a difference

Liz is a varsity tennis player who also is on the archery and track teams and plays soccer. She's interested in a career in psychology, or maybe architecture, and says she earns mostly A's. She knows that regardless of where she winds up, her world might never be the same.

She says she hasn't heard from the motorcyclist and says that's fine. She felt no need to shout out to the world what she had done. But she did want to share her experience with Davis, her health teacher.

She made Davis a card, thanking him for teaching her CPR, and then personally delivered it to this home.

"I look at this really nice handmade card and go, wow," Davis said. "It's not just her gesture; it's what she did.

"How many people would see an accident, call 911 and just keep driving? But what Liz did may have been the difference between life and death."

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419