You just never know when something is going to happen that will require you to act to save a life. You really don’t. I thought of CPR and First Aid as abstract concepts when I was in high school and was trained in them as part of a “magnet school” program for those of us interested in medical and scientific fields. We got to practice with dummies, but it was just that, practice. We mostly joked and laughed our way through the training, and I can honestly say that I learned nothing but how to dial 911 to get help.
My first real exposure to a situation requiring CPR came when I was in college and I was on my laboratory practicum rotations at a hospital. I went to draw blood from someone in the emergency department, and there were about 20 people working on a lady who was blue. The amount of organized chaos was impressive to me, so much so that I almost forgot to draw blood on the person a few beds down because I just stood there and watched the physicians, nurses, and techs try to save that woman’s life. What I remember the most was the forcefulness of the chest compressions being given by a tech and sounds of air going in and out of her.
Over the years, as I went from college to actually working at a hospital lab, I was more and more exposed to people in situations requiring CPR, but I didn’t do any of the CPR-ing myself. I was always the lab tech who took blood and ran off to analyze them. The chest compressions, breathing assistance, and drug delivery was left to others. Even my training then was laughable. We just stood around, did one or two rounds of CPR on a dummy, took a written exam, and then we were certified… All to meet the hospital’s requirements, but never really intended for any of us in the lab to do something with it. Saving dummies in dire straits was easy.
And so it went for several years until I decided to pay attention to what I was doing with regards to CPR. I don’t know why. It just dawned on me that I would come upon a situation where someone would need my assistance, and it would be extremely embarrassing (not to mention dangerous to the victim) if I didn’t know my stuff. So I paid attention to the instructional videos, put a little more effort at the re-certification hands-on exercises, and ran the scenarios in my head over and over whenever I could.
(I’m not going to write about it right now, but all this came in very handy back at the end of April. That’s all I’m going to write about that, for now.)
Last night, I went to get re-certified in CPR, and, let me tell you, I was hurting this morning. It was a good feeling, though, because it meant that the practice rounds of the instruction were physically demanding, just like CPR is in real life. We went at it for three and a half hours, pumping the chests of those dummies and going through all the motions of actual CPR. We also didn’t put the dummies up on a table like all my previous classes. The dummies were on the floor, making it more akin to an actual situation. I had a hard time kneeling for that long a time and bending all the way down to deliver rescue breaths with a mask.
Not only was the training environment more real, the instructor was phenomenal. He had wide experience in the fields of public safety and emergency medical services, and it showed. It was his idea that we go through all the motions of CPR on the ground and in real time, which is why it took us over three hours to get the whole thing done… And why I’m hurting. I really appreciated that, especially in light of my recent experiences with medical emergencies. I really do feel that I’m more prepared now.
I am a strong proponent of First Aid and CPR training for all parents with children in the household, homeowners with swimming pools on their properties, and for people who care for people with special needs. I highly recommend it for everyone else as well. If you are interested in learning these valuable techniques, I recommend contacting the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, or checking with your employer to see if they have a way of facilitating your training. You never know if you’ll need it, but it’s better to know what to do and not have to than to have to do something and be lost in ignorance.