A Williston teenager is on a literal life mission: He's in Washington DC lobbying members of Congress to keep funding for heart-related research conducted by the National Institutes of Health from being cut, due to federal sequestration.
For 15-year-old Tommy Watson, the trip to the Nation's Capitol is just another step on a journey that began with his efforts to make CPR training mandatory for students in Vermont before they graduate high school.
"It was a great step to take because it's only 30 minutes and it teaches people how to save a life," Watson said.
That cause earned Watson an award from the American Heart Association as its Youth-Advocate of the Year.
Watson's passion for CPR has translated to the teaching world as well. So far he's trained over 600 people in CPR, including Vermont lawmakers and Governor Peter Shumlin.
Tommy Watson says a single incident he witnessed prompted him to advocate for CPR training, an 86-year-old man suffered cardiac arrest at a soccer game with over 100 adults, and only one person knew CPR.
Watson learned CPR through a babysitting course, and learned it through the American Heart Association. He teaches hands-only CPR, a simple version to get the general public to know what to do if an adult collapses.
Some people are hesitant to perform CPR in an emergency. But Vermont has Good Samaritan laws that protect people from liability
"Not only that, but there's no breathing component anymore, which is the part that most people were afraid of, touching another person's mouth. And that aspect has been taken out of CPR, so now it's just doing those compression," Watson explains. And he says after most people try it on a mannequin in a training session, they'll feel more comfortable doing it in real life.
Watson is still teaching CPR when he can, and he's working on funding for the National Institutes of Health.
Watson says preserving funding for heart research is now his priority, "without that research people's lives can't be saved," Watson said.