Last month the entire staff of Cody Stephens Foundation attended Parent Heart Watch’s Heart to Heart conference, an annual event that brings together families who have lost a child to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, those who have been saved by screening, and people like me who want to prevent SCA.
It’s an incredibly emotional weekend, seeing the photographs of young lives lost during the memorials, connecting with parents who are still reeling from the loss of their child. But it’s also incredibly motivating. We heard about new research about the effectiveness of ECG heart screening and more support from the American Heart Association.
What had the most profound effect on me this year was CPR training.
I had the best instructor I’ve ever had in the seven years I’ve been working in this field. He had enough dummies for all of us to practice compressions We practiced compression-only CPR, as well as two different types of breath-assisted CPR. A couple people shared stories of performing CPR “in the field” and all the associated terrifying sounds and experiences they had.
CPR is not for the weak of heart, pun intended.
There were four people in the room who also teach CPR. There were at least eight families who had a child who died despite CPR. There was one survivor whose brother performed CPR on him until EMS arrived, saving his life. Even though I know the reasons why CPR is important, and even though those reasons were tangibly represented in the room, it’s still a really difficult mental leap to go from knowledge to the willingness to serve if called. Before, I knew I had training, but I was never fully comfortable being that lifesaver who would perform CPR if needed.
Thanks to the CPR class I attended this year, I am finally comfortable with my knowledge and my ability to step up.
I’ve heard and am willing to overcome obstacles: the sounds might be gross; the feeling of a human body is very different than a CPR dummy; it’s difficult to get around clothing obstacles. There’s a lot to consider, but I am fully prepared because I’ve been trained.
All of us want to be of use in this world. CPR training is a simple way to be of use.
The odds of surviving go down 10% for every minute that passes after a cardiac arrest, so the whole point is to educate a wider audience to be first responders. It might be your loved one who needs it, or a complete stranger, or even a small child.
If you see someone suddenly collapse, here’s the right path:
1. Call 911. Have them send help. Stay on the line and listen for further instructions.
2. Start chest compressions. With one hand on top of the other, fingers laced together, push down HARD and fast in the center of the chest with your arms straight. While you’re doing that, send someone to look for an AED (automated external defibrillator).
3. Use an AED. The AED is a portable medical device that delivers an electrical shock to restart a person’s heart. It provides voice prompts to tell you exactly what to do and can detect whether a shock is truly needed, so there’s no reason to hesitate or be concerned about delivering an unwarranted shock.