Two bare-chested male mannequin halves lay ready on the table as we walked into the training room. An assortment of first aid supplies and gloves were on the tables, for each of us five “students.” Suddenly I pondered the wisdom of signing up for this class. Could I ever perform CPR on someone who desperately needed it? What had we gotten ourselves into?
My husband and I recently learned various first aid skills in an American Heart Association course, taught by a friend from our Lions Club, Fred Shobe. Fred is the safety director for a local large company, Trumbo Electric. We spent six hours learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using an automated external defibrillator (AED), and responding to other emergencies such as choking, low blood sugar, bee stings, snake bites, tick bites, applying a tourniquet, delivering a shot with an “Eppy” autoinjector, and more.
I’m not going to try to repeat the training here, that would be impossible and not advisable. But I’ll share highlights.
There are numerous ways anyone can be helpful at the scene of an accident or after an apparent heart attack, cardiac arrest (two different things), stroke, fainting, seizure, and more. Some of our drills included learning and then practicing these basic steps:
1. Take a few seconds to quickly assess the scene, making sure it is safe so that no one else gets hurt. This could be shutting off a mower or weed eater, moving objects out of the way, etc. and having people stand back to give you and the victim room.
2. Figure out if the person is breathing/responsive: Tap on his chest and say, “Are you OK?” If there is no answer, yell for help, or if someone is there with you, have them call 9-1-1. Also send them to find a first aid kit, and an AED if available.
3. Try to assess if the person has stopped breathing or is only gasping. If no one steps up, call 9-1-1 yourself and put your phone on speaker so you can talk to a dispatcher without the phone in hand. A dispatcher is trained to talk you through basic CPR until more advanced emergency personnel arrive. Never hang up from the dispatcher until they tell you to do so. It helps to always be aware of the address or area you’re at, to provide as complete a description of your location as possible. Someone else can go meet the EMS (emergency medical services) and direct them to your side.
4. If the person is not breathing, start CPR (30 compressions and two breaths per set if you know how). Continue doing this until either an AED is provided, or EMS arrives. An AED attempts to shock a heart back into its normal rhythm. Once an AED arrives, turn it on. It will talk you through the proper steps of using it. You will need to remove or cut open the patient’s shirt or top for the shock pads to be stuck to the chest.
5. Or, if the person is breathing normally when you first check their breathing, then look for blood from an injury, possible broken bones, and medical jewelry or medical tattoo. The person may be diabetic and lost consciousness from low blood sugar. Stay with the person until EMS arrives, and if bleeding, use first aid to stop the bleeding. Let the EMS take over once they arrive.
As the only woman in our training group, I started to worry about the instructions to remove or cut open the person’s shirt or top in an actual emergency. Did that mean women too? Of course. Our instructor added that you may need to cut open the front of a bra especially if the bra has an underwire. (The wire’s conductivity could mess with the electric shock of the AED.) He added that if there are bystanders or others helping with the rescue attempt, they could assist by holding up blankets, towels, or sweaters to help give a female patient some privacy. Obviously, medical emergencies are not a time to worry about baring all.
I appreciated all we learned. Just knowing what is involved is helpful; how to assist someone giving CPR or other first aid can also be lifesaving. Just a little over a year ago, my great-nephew collapsed on the high school football field. The person administering CPR had just had a refresher course, and the quick action of all involved — including those who helicoptered him to a nearby university hospital, were credited with his recovery. His family was so very grateful to God and the staff who stepped up. Fred emphasized that every minute that passes for a person who needs CPR and is not receiving it, their rate of survival diminishes.
For one resource, check this video on YouTube: CPR/AED Emergency Response Refresher. I invite you to share your emergency story by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.