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Learn CPR: It could save a life

March 26, 2008
By Connie Cartmell,
When a call comes for help and sirens wail, a first responder normally has no idea who might be in serious peril.

“I was on a run in 2003 when we were able to save someone with CPR and an AED (automatic external defibrillator), and the individual turned out to be my cousin,” said Lt. Bob Thrasher of the Marietta Fire Department. “We brought her back.”

Proficiency and rigorous training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and AED are a critical aspect of the job and expected for rescue personnel, but can be important for anyone, said Thrasher, a firefighter and emergency squad veteran of 20 years.

“It’s a good thing for everybody to know. My wife and daughter (17) have CPR training,” he said. “You can save a life.”

The American Red Cross of Washington County offers basic training and certification in CPR, AED and first aid multiple times each year.

“With summer coming on, you might find yourself at the ball field or at a swimming pool or lake and if someone needs help, you could get involved,” Thrasher said.

What is tricky about CPR training and protocol is that it changes frequently. That’s why those who are trained need to keep their certification current, according to JoAnn Seyler, executive director of the American Red Cross in Marietta. CPR training must be updated every year.

“About every five years, the basic guidelines are revised,” she said.

CPR training is open to adults and older teens. Younger teens do not always have the strength to perform chest compressions, Seyler said. Basic training in CPR may begin for a 12- or 13-year-old, and classes in first aid are offered for younger children.

This weekend the local agency at 401 Fourth St. will offer a 24-hour comprehensive first aid/CPR/AED course for adults who have already completed (and are up-to-date) with their basic certifications. When the course is complete, the person may be eligible to volunteer to teach CPR classes in the community.

Kay Stanley, health and safety coordinator with the Red Cross, is planning to take the instructor course. She is already certified in the basics.

“You never know when you are going to need it — at home, at work, in an industry, wherever you are,” Stanley said.

The training has been part of most of her adult life, she said.

“I used to work with MRDD (people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities) and had some people who had seizures pretty bad,” she said. “Everybody should know the basics.”

The instructor course is important to train people to teach others, she said. Currently there are 51 instructors who volunteer with the American Red Cross locally.

“It’s really important for people to become instructors,” she said. “We rely on our volunteers so much to keep us going.”

Seyler said changes in the way CPR is done today stem from collaboration by the American Red Cross, American Heart Association and a consortium of physicians and researchers.

“The ratio of breaths to compressions has changed in recent years,” she said.

With two mouth-to-mouth breaths, new CPR ratios call for 30 compressions. In past years, the number of compressions was fewer.

CPR should continue in cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until a sign of life is found, the scene becomes unsafe, an AED is ready to use, the person giving CPR is too exhausted to continue or another trained responder arrives and takes over, according to the Red Cross.

“The newer ratio is for adults, children and infants,” Seyler said. “I think this is one of the big changes that has helped people a great deal. It’s all the same ratio now for everybody.”

At one time, the numbers of breaths and chest compressions varied, depending on the age of the victim.

“People spent too much time worrying about what ratio for what age,” she said.

Another newer CPR recommendation has to do with “landmarking” for compressions, Seyler said.

“It is simply done directly over the middle of the chest now,” she said. “It used to be that we would be required to measure two fingers from a point on the breast bone and that took too much time away.”

Another recent change concerns individuals who are choking on food.

“For a conscious person who is choking, we are back to five cycles of back blows, followed by five abdominal thrusts,” she said. “For a period of time, the back blows were abandoned, but it was found that both procedures are needed.”

Trial and error over the years are critical to arriving at the correct life-saving recommendation.

“Something else new is the way these courses are taught,” Seyler said. “The instructor no longer lectures for the entire class period, but students watch a video while they practice. It gives the instructor more time to observe each student. Class goes easier and the program is more uniform.”

Fact Box

If you go:
¯ What: First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor’s Course.
¯ When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
¯ Where: 401 Fourth St., Marietta.
¯ Sponsor: American Red Cross of Washington County.
¯ Who: Open to any individual who has already completed basic certification in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED).
¯ Fee: $140.
¯ Registration: Still open. Phone 373-0281 to reserve a spot.
¯ For more information: 373-0281.
In case of a heart attack:
¯ Call 911 at once.
¯ Have the person stop what he or she is doing and rest comfortably. This will ease the heart’s need for oxygen. More recent recommendations include giving the person aspirin while waiting for help.
¯ Sitting may also make it easier for the person experiencing a heart attack to breathe.
¯ Loosen any tight or uncomfortable clothing.
¯ Closely watch the person until emergency medical personnel arrive. Notice any changes in behavior or appearance.
¯ Be prepared to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use an automatic external defibrillator if the person stops breathing and shows no other signs of life.
Source: American Red Cross,



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