CPR: Are You Ready For The Moment You Can Make A Difference?
Do you know CPR? Have you ever actually had to use it? I encountered the sudden need to perform CPR recently, and the power of the moment proved to be a very eye-opening experience. It was one that emphasized how important knowing CPR is, and the need to be ready.
It was a Saturday night on which I was losing at cards to my wife and mom on our back patio. We’d just gone out to dinner for my daughter’s birthday, the kids were playing in the pool, the weather was perfect. A nice night; yet one that was quickly changed when a shriek pierced the air from my neighbors’ house. At the sound I jumped up, peeked over the fence, and looked across the hundred yards to their property. Samantha, the middle-aged mom of the house, was standing on her front lawn and screamed “Help me” in a tone that left no question of the urgency. I shouted “Grab a phone” at my wife (who had already gone to get one), and took off through the front gate. As I approached their house, I yelled back to “Call 9-1-1!” as it became clear that someone had collapsed on their front lawn… her father.
He was lying flat on the ground with a purple color to his face and a blank stare to the sky. Samantha and her two kids were standing over him, stunned by what was happening and unsure of what to do. The need to do something flushed through my mind as I took in the surprising scene. I’d taken CPR training a few times in the past, but it had been many years. Inactivity was not an option though, so I knelt down next to him, checked his mouth for any obstructions, and felt for a pulse in his neck. Nothing obvious.
I started chest compressions intermixed with some mouth-to-mouth breaths and encouraging words to him. Anything to get a response. Samantha was on the phone with 9-1-1 anxiously awaiting rescuers to arrive. I spoke briefly with the dispatcher to make sure I was doing the right thing, and continued on. Occasionally he would exhale, but I didn’t know if it was an actual response or a byproduct of all the action on his body.
A couple minutes in, a passerby drove up and identified himself as “CPR certified”. As he was likely more recently trained, I stepped back and let him take over. Shortly thereafter, the fire department arrived, followed a couple minutes later by an ambulance. By the time the man was taken to the hospital, he had received numerous chest compressions and defibrillation by the paramedics, had a pulse, and was being bagged for breathing.
In the days following, the dad was diagnosed as having had a massive heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He is very thankfully still alive and recovering, but of course faces a long road ahead for he and his family.
Personally, the experience left me feeling numb. I had attempted to breathe life in to a seemingly unresponsive body. I’d done chest compressions while wondering in my head… Am I doing the right thing? Is this even helping? While serving as an air ambulance pilot in Afghanistan, I’d flown several people who had life-threatening or traumatic injuries, and it felt good to help each time. But this was different. It was the first time I’d directly worked on someone. The first time I’d seen a chest rise and fall as I blew in to it, and compressed the chest of a real person who meant so much to his family.
The gist of sharing this experience is to highlight how being ready can make a huge difference in someone’s life. If the moment comes that a daughter is panicking with fear because she thinks her father is dying, or that kids are staring in disbelief at their grandfather who lays unresponsive in front of them… can you help?
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation training only takes a slice of a day yet can make all the difference in the world to someone. Check out the links below for good starting points to find a class near you. Heck, maybe I’ll even see you there… I know I’m looking forward to rekindling what I know.