If You Know How


(source) It’s a tourniquet!

I attended first aid and CPR training today. I haven’t had any since high school. Part of the Public Works and City standards requires a retraining every 2 years.

We had 2 EMTs and a DVD for four hours. We learned all about what heart attacks, fainting and seizures look like. We partnered up and bandaged each other. And the steps were always the same:

  • Secure the scene. (Psst! The coast is clear!)
  • See if the downed person is responsive. (Tap, tap. “Hey, mister! You in there?”)
    Call for help. (“You there, ma’am. Call 911 and get the AED. No. It’s over there. See where I’m pointing? The green box. Yes, that one. Bring it here. What? Oh, never mind. I’ll get it myself.” Sigh.)
  • Then put on gloves, mask, apron and any other HAZMAT gear, because, in the EMT’s words “You don’t want what they’ve got.” Kidding. But not really.
  • Administer the bandage, EPI pen, chest compressions, etc. until help arrives.

The AED (automated external defibrillator) is the true hero. It can shock hearts back to life. In fact, it instructs you every step of the way. “Put the pads on” and even when to charge figure in its spiel.

The AED also has a built-in metronome. Where have you been all my life? You time your pushes to the beat. It’s set at about 100 bpm, or the same rate as Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”, which is what sprang in my head the first time I heard the beat. I guess “Staying Alive” also fits. But not “Another One Bites the Dust”, according to the shorter EMT.

The thing with CPR is you can’t just do it. The caveat was always if you know how. Gone are the days of ten chest pumps and 3 breaths over 60 seconds or whatever. Oh no. It’s 2 minutes of chest presses and then 2 breaths, with only a 10-second break for the breaths. See, you keep someone in a recoverable state with the chest presses. You’re making their heart beat again. The air is nice but not completely necessary.

“In fact, I don’t even do the breathing unless I have a partner,” the taller EMT said. “I don’t want to stick my mouth on someone else’s mouth. I don’t know anyone who does,” he asserted. Getting the heart moving is priority. Period.

True. Nobody lined up to kiss the mannequins, even with the mouth masks and breathing tubes added. I can’t imagine in an emergency that putting together pieces of plastic will be something folks remember to do, let alone how to do it.

If you know how kept coming up. It made me think. We want skilled people doing tasks, not random people filling in. We don’t do this in regular life. “Oh, you like turtles? Sure, you can be the aquarium vet.” Or, “We have an opening in our law firm. Who wants to be a lawyer today?” Oh no. Nope. Never. No thanks.

Education and training matter. In an emergency, I want someone who knows how to do CPR to rescue me or my family. You can do serious damage if you don’t know how to press someone’s heart back into service. With proper instruction, we’ll all have a much better chance of survival, even without a tourniquet.





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