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CPR Training Can Save Lives

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

(Photo: A woman receives CPR training. American Red Cross )

You don't have to go to medical school to learn how to save someone's life in an emergency. Anyone can learn the skills to help someone until paramedics arrive. The local chapter of the American Red Cross teaches some 30,000 San Diegans every year. KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg has the story.

Red Cross instructor Ricardo Moran has only four-and-a-half hours to teach people how to perform CPR and rudimentary first aid. So he doesn't waste any time. Right after some opening remarks, he addresses the biggest fear people have about helping people in a medical emergency: getting sued. 

Ricardo Moran: The only thing you're required to do, okay, is call 9-1-1 and stay with the person. If you choose to do something beyond that, now you're acting as a Good Samaritan.

And Moran says as a Good Samaritan, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

Moran: First you're going to act in good faith, okay, so we're trying to help the person, not hurt them. The other thing is, we're not going to be deliberately negligent or reckless.

Moran makes another important point. He says in an emergency, it's vital that people stay within their scope of training.

Moran: So just because we saw it on ER, doesn't mean we're going to do it, right? A person has a blocked airway, you get a pair of scissors, try to cut his throat open, try to get the object out, so those are things we're not going to do. I hope you don't do them, let's just say.

With that out of the way, Moran puts on a video that lays down some of the fundamentals.  

Video: Ow! Are you okay? Yeah…ow, oh my leg! You took quite a fall…If the person can talk to you, you know he is conscious, breathing, and has a pulse. Ow! Once you have determined, there are no obvious life-threatening conditions, get consent to help, and check the injured person from head to toe.

Students learn about the three C's: check, call 9-1-1, and care.

Next, classmates pair off and do some role playing.

Students: Hi, my name's Bart may I help you? Yeah, I think so, I fell and I hit my head. It really hurts bad and I can't see very well, either. Ah, okay. Can you move your shoulders at all?

Over the next few minutes, students will also learn how to check an unconscious person, how to gently roll them into a better position, and what do to if someone is choking. Then it's on to CPR. Students grab a plastic mannequin.

Video: First, place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest, along the breastbone. Then, place your other hand on top, and lace your fingers together. Good, now sit back for a moment and watch me do the next part before we practice it together.

The practice of CPR has changed. It used to be 15 chest compressions, two rescue breaths, and then a quick break to check for a pulse. These days, it's 30 chest compressions, two rescue breaths, and right back to the compressions.

And there's a new companion to CPR -- automatic external defibrillators. These electronic devices are widely available in airports and other public places. If a person's heart has stopped, an AED can be a lifesaver.

After numerous tries on the mannequins, students take a written test. If they pass, they're certified to perform CPR.

Bonnie Pogue passes with flying colors. As to whether she's ready to save someone's life, Pogue says she's willing to give it a shot.

Pogue: Yeah, I think I'd be able to pitch in and help. I would have to assess the situation, see where my skills lay, who else is around, and just do whatever I can to help, or get out of the way.

But with time, Pogue may forget some of her newfound skills. That's why the Red Cross recommends people get re-certified in CPR every year.

Kenny Goldberg, KPBS News.

First aid can save lives. But many people don't know what to do in an emergency. Learn more by tuning in to KPBS FM 89.5 during our one-hour Health Dialogues special on August 31at 10 a.m.

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