by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Here we are enjoying the summer relaxing, being outdoors and having fun, but it can also be a time of risk for our hearts. Extreme heat it may increase incidents of cardiac arrest and spending more time in the water, danger can lurk if a person experiences a near drowning. Knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR could be the key to saving someone from cardiac arrest or drowning. CPR, especially if performed immediately, could double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. The American Heart Association (AHA) is reminding people about the importance of staying safe and prepared this summer. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States and fewer than half of these people receive the immediate help that they need before professional help arrives. The AHA is the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, is working to increase the number of bystanders who use CPR in an emergency. As summertime activities increase the exposure of people of all ages to risks, it’s even more important to be trained on CPR. You could be saving the life of someone you love. A simple one-minute video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4ACYp75mjU) shows you what you need to know to perform Hands Only CPR.
Years ago I took a CPR course that was offered by my place of employment. The five hour course was probably the most important hours I could possibly think of spending on a Saturday morning. Along with nine co-workers, I took a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) course. In conjunction with the American Heart Association, the Red Cross has developed a variety of CPR courses that meet the needs of persons without medical background. There is Heart Saver courses developed for firemen, policemen, day care workers, physical therapists, etc. There is also a course called CPR for Family and Friends that will train people to know what to do in a life-threatening situation. With the knowledge and skills you learn when taking one of these courses, it could mean the difference between saving the life of a loved one, neighbor or close friend or standing by idly and waiting for help to arrive.
There were several real-life scenarios that the video portion of the training session portrayed. You could walk into the room and see your pre-schooler, who only minutes before was busily playing with his building blocks, unconscious on the floor. Perhaps a niece or neighbor comes to visit and her eight month old starts choking and turning blue. One segment of the video showed a group of young children around a campfire, toasting marshmallows, and one young girl pops two of them into her mouth at one time. While the rest of the group chatters away, telling stories and giggling, they notice the girl cannot speak and is choking. One adult in the group quickly went into action, knowing the right thing to do, practicing the Heimlich maneuver. Can you imagine what you would do, or are capable of doing during these instances? It only takes a matter of minutes to decide what to do during these life-threatening moments. Knowing what to do, or even what not to do can be the turning point for whether the victim pulls through this medical emergency. Our CPR instructor told us about a pair of grandparents that gave a wonderful gift to their twelve grandchildren. They enrolled the children, ranging in age 14 through college age in a CPR course and had the instructor come to their house to give the seminar. Most of these official, state licensed organizations will arrange for an instructor to come to a work site, school building, or private facility if the required amount of individuals is enrolled in the course. Classes are also given in Red Cross facilities, local ambulance core buildings, and other officially sanctioned sites.
CPR courses are offered through local BOCES campuses (Board of Co operational Educational Services), community colleges or local town organizations such as the Volunteer Ambulance Core or civic groups. You can also call your local chapter of the Red Cross or the American Heart Association to obtain information on the next available course being offered near you.
A note on choking: The instructor shared a very moving story about a person dining out that made an impression on the class. A gentleman was at a restaurant with a large group of friends, enjoying a buffet meal. During one of his trips back to the buffet table he began choking on a piece of food that was caught in his throat. Rather than embarrass himself in front of friends coughing up the particle or bringing up the contents by the buffet table, he went, unnoticed into the rest room. It was about ten or fifteen minutes later when someone from the group noticed he hadn’t returned to his seat. Someone went into the men’s room and found him on the floor. It was too late. He had choked to death. The lesson to this story is to never leave the area where there are other people if you are choking. If it is someone else choking and you see him or her trying to go to a private place, join that person. When choking and unable to talk, tug on someone’s sleeve to follow you. By the way, the universal sign to let someone know you are choking is to clasp your hand around the front of your neck, with the thumb extended from the other four fingers. Enrolling in a CPR/First Aid course of some kind may be the most important thing you ever did in your life. In fact, someone’ else’s life could depend on it.
First Aid Kit: When was the last time you checked and updated your home first aid kit? Is the Poison Control Center telephone number clearly posted by your telephone? Most families store a first aid kit high up on a shelf away from the children. Let your family members know where it is stored and think about locating it within reach of everyone. Show your children where it is and what is in it. You may be the one hurt and have to depend on a child to get the first aid kit for you. Being prepared also means going over the contents with the child before an emergency happens. Do you have a fully stocked first aid kit in the car, complete with a flashlight and fresh batteries? You should keep an old blanket in the car or purchase a solar blanket for emergency situations. A solar blanket looks like a large piece of crinkly aluminum foil, but is lightweight and durable. It is made for warmth and particularly for keeping a patient warm that may be going into shock. Keep extra bandages in the auto kit and heavy, sterile cloth for severe wounds. A clean, new diaper could be used if a wound produced a flow of blood that was heavier than gauze or bandages could handle. Being prepared with all the proper materials is of the utmost importance, but knowing what to do is even more critical.
To be ready for a safe summer, the American Heart Association recommends the following:
- Learn CPR. For drowning, the American Heart Association recommends rescue breaths along with compressions.
- Remember Life Jackets. Half of all boating deaths could be prevented with their use.
- Learn to Swim. Drowning is the second-leading cause of death in children between ages 1 & 4.
- Family Safety Plan. It’s important for everyone in the family to be trained in CPR.
- Secure the Pool. Install fencing with self-closing gates at least 4 feet high to separate the pool from house and yard.
- Teach Safety. Talk about risky behavior such as diving or swimming in unfamiliar water, and alcohol or drug use while in or near water.
- Clear Out Pool Toys. Make sure children aren’t tempted to play unsupervised.