This week I completed what was probably my 15th CPR certificate renewal class. For the last 30-something years or so, I’ve taken BLS (basic life support) every two years, which includes CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). I have to take this class for my job, but I’d like to think that I would do it anyway.
I took my first CPR class in a Red Cross babysitting class in eighth grade. Back then, CPR was pretty new. There were a lot of rules of how to do it right and the class seemed pretty scary to a 12-year-old. We practiced on Resusi Annie, a life-sized model of a girl, who wore a blue track suit. The story was that Annie had died in a drowning accident, and her parents invented the CPR practice mannequin so people would know how to save drowning victims and prevent further tragedies. I never knew if this story was true, as we didn’t have Wikipedia back then.
Since then, CPR has come a long way. We now practice on mannequins that just have heads and chests – no arms or legs, no track suits. The CPR manual has gone from an inch-thick, technical manual, to 68 pages with color illustrations. The emphasis now is on doing CPR the best you can, and bringing an AED (automated external defibrillator) to the victim as soon as possible. We know now what we didn’t know 40-something years ago, that most cardiac arrest (unless caused by trauma) is caused by a bad heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, aka v-fib. The AED works by stopping the heart with a shock. When the heart restarts, hopefully it will restart in a normal rhythm. CPR helps keep oxygen circulating in the victim’s body until this happens.
In 2001, AEDs were starting to appear in many public buildings, but were still pretty new. I was a senior in my bachelor of nursing program. My project adviser was a physician on campus who questioned the feasibility of installing AEDs in campus buildings. She was concerned about safety, liability and cost. For my project, I did an extensive report on why it was a good idea to have AEDs in campus buildings, and explored cost, training, safety and liability issues. She liked my report so much that she asked me to present it to the campus safety committee. The committee took my recommendations and installed AEDs in campus buildings. There they sat for years, ready to go, but as far as I know, like most AEDs , were unused. About ten years later, the university president emeritus had a heart attack while speaking at a campus event. Bystanders performed CPR, used the AED and revived him. My mom called me later that day and said “You saved the university president!”
Now AEDs are in most public buildings in the USA, including stadiums, airports, offices, museums, and grocery stores. Have you noticed them? Most of the time they are in a wall case, with a red or green sign like the one above stating “AED here.” When you remove the AED from the case, an alarm is activated which sends more help, so in no time at all you’ll have other people there to help you with CPR.
What would you do if someone collapsed at home or in a public building? Would you know how to help? Save a life – learn CPR.
(Community CPR classes are offered through the Red Cross, hospitals, schools and community centers.)
© Huffygirl 2012