Ryan Ori: Learning CPR is time well spent
Learning how to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillators always seemed like a great idea.
But for me, a CPR and AED class was one of those things in life that you frequently tell yourself you should do, but never quite do. Until now.
I recently spent a Thursday morning at the American Red Cross Central Illinois Chapter building.
What finally got me there now?
During February, annually celebrated as American Heart Month, I wrote several articles relating to heart health. Specifically, there are several tales of everyday people using their Red Cross training to save lives.
While conducting interviews, it was striking how well those central Illinoisans were able to block out the panicked atmosphere that surrounded them as they performed CPR and AED skills they had learned under much calmer circumstances.
“Since I have six grandkids and elderly relatives, I thought it would be a good idea,” said Jackie Leitch of Morton, who saved a man who stopped breathing in a Bloomington restaurant. “I never thought I would end up doing it on a stranger.”
John Heller, chief information officer at Caterpillar Inc., said his corporation is rapidly increasing its efforts to educate employees on life-saving techniques. Last spring, he used those skills to help save a fellow golfer at Peoria Country Club who suffered a heart attack.
“The training is a pretty important message out of all of this,” Heller said. “Our chairman, Jim Owens, brought the Red Cross to Chicago for one of our strategy sessions. He said, ‘Rather than play golf, we’re going to train everybody on CPR and how to use an AED.’ The chairman made that commitment to train our 100 senior managers.”
Closer to home, at the Peoria Journal Star’s distribution center, word spread that Phil Hornung and Len Jatkowski used CPR on a co-worker in January. Jeff Gordon, who quit breathing, lost consciousness and briefly had no pulse, was aided by those employees until help could arrive.
According to the local Red Cross chapter, which trained more than 11,000 adults in CPR and AED in 2008, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the Tri-County Area.
Among those who saved a life, the most common theme was that none of them ever thought they’d have to use their training, but they were all glad the knowledge was available when the frightening moment arrived.
With that in mind I joined co-worker Brian Ludwig, who was updating his certification, for about four hours of training.
Instructor Sheila Seals led our group through adult CPR and AED training, as well as what to do if someone is choking on food.
Basics included how to recognize someone in distress, how to safely position the victim, and potentially dangerous mistakes to avoid.
Seals stressed the seriousness of life-saving situations, while adding in a few light moments — such as when the AED being used by myself and Brian began chattering instructions in Spanish.
“There’s always one in the group,” Seals said, noting that the AED language switch had been bumped off of English.
For CPR, partners alternated practicing basic steps — such as checking for breathing, then administering cycles of two rescue breaths followed by 30 chest compressions — on dummies. We named ours Lamont 1 and Lamont 2 — a reference to the beleaguered son in the 1970s television show “Sanford and Son” who was constantly referred to as a “big dummy.”
CPR is an important way to circulate blood containing oxygen to vital organs, but to kick-start the heart you need a defibrillator.
How important is getting the AED quickly to the scene, and knowing how to use it?
Seals explained that for every minute that passes without an AED shock, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival decrease 10 percent.
As long as you have the AED switched to the correct language, the device guides its user through each step leading up to administering an electric shock to the heart.
Coming away from the training, it is clear one session does not create a life-saving expert. Certainly, there is a lot of information to process and remember in just a few hours. Because of that, certification needs to be renewed annually.
But there is no doubt I’m better equipped to handle and emergency than I was before my visit to the Red Cross.
Like so many other people who have done the training, I hope it is never needed. Even if it never is needed, those few morning hours seem like time well spent.
To sign up for CPR and AED training, log on to www.redcrossillinois.org or call (309) 677-7272.
Ryan Ori can be reached at (309) 686-3264 firstname.lastname@example.org.