It’s important to remind people to learn CPR, and I use this space to do so from time to time.
So, then: You need to learn CPR. If you have learned CPR but it’s been awhile, you need to take a refresher class. If you are well-trained you need to be ready to do it, to do CPR.
CPR is, of course, short for “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation,” that is, a way, using a kind of forceful massage thing, to get a heart to beating like it needs to beat when it has stopped doing so. You may have seen it on television, maybe a drama where someone beats on a chest to get someone else’s heart to beating. (The actual technique is generally less dramatic, but then: television.)
This is a topic especially dear to my (pun alert) heart due to the impact CPR had in my own life.
August 1, 2007, I was found at my desk by co-workers, my heart had stopped beating. What they found, and what I relay to you, is what they told me, I remember none of this. I was having a day at my desk, about to reach for my cell phone, and I came to in an ambulance.
Weirdest day of my life – no kidding.
What they found was me at my desk making a death rattle sound, my body having some memory of breathing but my lungs no longer working, blood flow having stopped. It was this noise that first attracted them to my office. My skin was white, my lips blue, they tell me.
Some confusion of course, then a co-worker, a former EMT declared we (they) needed to do CPR, and they did. While that went on an ambulance was called. They, two of the guys, took turns doing the CPR thing. The ambulance crew arrived and hooked up the paddles. It took three tries, but on the third my heart got back to beating on its own.
Some minutes after that I came to, I was in the ambulance.
A day and a half later a doctor walked into my hospital room to tell me they were going to put in a pacemaker/defibrillator, the next day they did that, and here I am.
He really emphasized a point in telling me what was about to happen, that I needed the implant, and repeated it several times. I needed a pacemaker/defibrillator because it turns out my heart wasn’t all that reliable – it turned out – and the CPR saved my life.
That’s what he repeated several times. This was years ago and I can still picture him, bedside, telling me the following: “Those guys (pause) saved your life.”
I could broaden the story from here quickly, adding two points.
First, the morning after my attack I was laying in the hospital bed, my wife had gone home to clean up, I had eaten something, they had stabilized me and I wasn’t feeling bad, and some guy, younger guy in jeans and a t-shirt, with a little girl, walked up to the side of my bed and just stood there. He acted a little shy but at the same time purposeful.
“Hello?” I asked, and he started talking.
He was on the ambulance crew that brought me in. It was so rare, he told me, to see someone alive after what I’d been through that he just wanted to come in and see me.
Of course I thanked him, we spoke a few minutes and he left. (Off work that day, he had Daddy day-care duties, hence bringing his daughter with him.)
The second was that I was in great shape at the time. A regular at the gym and a nationally-ranked BMX racer. I’d been racing my bicycle just the night before, outrunning people much younger than me. But then I was a healthy guy, and strong.
And I was alive, I am alive. Since that day I was there for my grandson’s birth, and me and the wife just celebrated our 30th. And more.
Because someone did CPR. They took one look at the situation and got to work.
So yeah, go learn CPR. You won’t be able to save my life (I have built in paddles now) but at the same time, you could very likely be the dime someone’s life turns on. Be ready for that moment.
Kienlen is the Editor of The Van Buren County Democrat