How to Save a Life

The Secret is First-Aid

A few weeks ago, I spent a beautiful Saturday morning at my bi-annual CPR and First Aid class. This was the third class I had taken, and while I truly dislike spending my Saturday inside a dark, windowless room and watching videos of people getting hurt, I can appreciate the value of what I learn.

According to the American Heart Association of CPR and First Aid, more than 383,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital every year. Yet, out of this outrageous number, only about 32% receive CPR before professional help arrives. To clarify, heart attacks are when coronary arteries to the heart become blocked and the heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen. Cardiac arrests are when the heart stops beating altogether.

 It only takes a day, but the skills can last a lifetime.
Photo Credit | Katie Leier

Sadly, even less than 8% of these cardiac arrests that occur outside the hospital survive.
So many people truly live thinking that nothing like this could ever happen, or someone else who knows what to do will take care of everything should the need arise.

If everyone thinks that way, we are in serious trouble.

The last thing anyone wants to dwell on is the possibility of disaster striking those you love, but we also need to be realistic. It’s a part of life, but it doesn’t have to end in disaster. From internal bleeding to nosebleeds, heat stroke to asthma, something learned will be put to use at some point.

A few summers ago, the biggest skill I used was the Heimlich.

A new child had recently been enrolled in the daycare I teach at. At one year old, the child had only used drop-in daycares before, where parents often packed their meals and snacks for their children. The daycare I work for prepares and provides meals ourselves.

This particular child struggled to eat what we offered. We were able to work through these struggles with chewing and swallowing food later on with professional help, but for the time being, this kiddo was in the baby room. As the baby teacher, I was responsible for feeding them.

The first thing they choked was on plain applesauce. I had never even thought something pure liquid would be a choking hazard, but it was. After that, I dreaded mealtimes. I began to give the Heimlich about once a week for quite some time.

When someone stops breathing, it is one of the scariest moments that anyone could face. The fear never subsided even after I grew used to this situation. But knowing what to do (and being able to do it) somewhat calms the panic.

While I was able to provide emergency care simply because it was my job, imagine if this occurred to your friend, coworker, or family member – anyone – while it’s only the two of you. Would you know the proper procedure? Do you know the difference between methods for children and adult treatment?

I am glad to see the increase in CPR/ First Aid classes. In research done by the American Health Care Academy, the number of people getting certified has grown, especially since COVID-19 in 2020. Part of this is due to the increase in classes offered online. Many organizations offer online First Aid certification, although CPR needs to be completed in person.

No matter the method, getting any sort of training is beneficial. As family members get older, and as we college students move out, live on our own, get married, and start families, we can all benefit from learning how to provide care in emergencies. While certification requires retaking the class every two years, even if you are only able to take the class once, there will be at least one method of care that will stick with you forever.

Classes are occasionally offered at the NDSU Wellness Center, or more frequent ones occur at FM ambulance. Some are offered online, as well.

As one of my instructors noted, even if there isn’t enough time to become certified, takes time to perfect even one skill. Research the proper method for hands-only CPR. Find out what a tourniquet is and what can be used to make one, should the need arise.

Even if you do take the class and an emergency arises where you are unsure what to do, just dial 911. The dispatcher can coach you on what you can do until help arrives. Always call 911 if there are any questions, you don’t know what to do, or you know an emergency needs professional help.

We will not all be first responders, doctors, or surgeons. That doesn’t mean our roles are any less significant. With the proper training and the right amount of confidence in yourself, you, too, could save a life.

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