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You're not a dummy when you know CPR

August 18, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

I helped a dummy breathe and regain consciousness Saturday.

Well, sort of.

Dan the Dummy, as I called the "person" I practiced CPR on, would have thanked me for saving his life - if he had ever been alive.

Instead, I thanked him for helping me become better prepared for emergencies.

During a three-hour workshop, Kimberly Buchanan, director of health and safety for the American Red Cross in Washington County, taught about 40 of us CPR - cardiopulmonary resuscitation - and other medical procedures as part of the Citizen's Emergency Preparedness Day at the Robinwood Medical Center.

I entered the class with some of the same concerns expressed by others in the workshop.

What if the person who may need my help has a disease?

Buchanan showed us how to wear and remove latex gloves and use a breathing barrier to prevent against disease transmission.

What if someone who I tried to help sued me?


Good Samaritan laws protect people performing CPR from lawsuits, provided they try to avoid causing further injuries and do not exceed the training they received, Buchanan said. We can't try to perform a tracheotomy, for example, she said.

She said we should get verbal permission from a person who is choking or having other problems before we try to help them. If the person is a minor or unconscious there is implied consent.

But what if I hurt the person? What if I do something wrong?

It's quite possible you will hurt someone doing chest compressions - when you push the chest on the breastbone, Buchanan said. People sometimes accidentally break the ribs of a person they are trying to help because they push too hard or their hands are not placed in the proper place, she said.

More common is that cartilage will be flexing during the chest compressions, which causes a sound that sometimes people find startling.

"It sounds like microwave popcorn," Buchanan said.

If she was unconscious she would prefer we try to help her and break three ribs than not help, with a potentially fatal outcome, she said.

She said chest compressions are most effective when your hands are directly on the person's skin. This may mean removing a woman's shirt.

"Modesty goes out the window," she said.

After going over other lessons, the class gathered around the dummies. Some shared dummies. One woman objected to that idea: "I don't share my men."

Buchanan walked us through what to do if we come across someone unconscious and not breathing:

  • Check the scene to see if it is safe.

  • Tap the victim to see if the person responds. The person should not be pushed forcefully because that could cause further injury. It's also possible the person could be asleep.

    "People don't appreciate you breathing into them if they are already breathing," Buchanan said.

    "You OK?" I asked Dan. There was no response.

  • If there is no response, call 911 or have someone else call 911. If there are multiple victims, give that and other helpful information to the 911 dispatchers. Do not hang up until the dispatcher does.

  • Check to see if the person is breathing. Dan wasn't.

I put a breathing barrier over his mouth and gave him two slow rescue breaths while pinching his nose shut. I checked and Dan's chest did not rise. This was getting bad.

I also compressed his chest about 2 inches deep. Still no response. I also checked his mouth to see if any objects were lodged in there but there was nothing there - literally.

After practicing this and other essential actions, we were told to stop and tested on the information we had learned. Dan didn't get up, but I like to believe he would have if he was human.

I passed the test. I now feel empowered and I encourage others to learn CPR. I'll try to help you in a life-saving situation; do you have the knowledge to help me?

The American Red Cross offers CPR classes about once a week. For a schedule of classes or other information call the Red Cross at 301-739-0717.

Call them.

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