The bodies were stacked, sometimes three deep, on the table opposite the room I just entered.
I peered further and caught a glimpse of eyes, expressionless, staring back at me through a web of
interlocking arms and torsos. I was nervous. There was only one unoccupied chair left in the CPR class I was taking. I had just made it!
Close call I thought as I slid into the seat and introduced myself to the nurse sitting next to me.
Her name was Sadie, and she was nice. But everyone was. I’d assume it had something to do with not being laughed at when your turn came to perform CPR on one of the mannequins on that table. In fact, it doesn’t get much better than having to perform a critical, life-saving ritual, pass or fail, in front of a bunch of people you’ve never met but whom you semi-compete with professionally. Big fun, right there.
I’ll skip all the minor details, descriptions, and instructor jokes (trust me, there are many), and hit on the important points of CPR taught in class that day. Not much has changed since the last time I took the CPR exam two years ago. It used to be if you saw someone unresponsive, you’d spend ten seconds to check for pulse and breath before calling 911 or summoning for emergency response. Now, you dial 911 or shout for assistance immediately if you happen upon or see someone go down.
You want to do 30 chest compressions at a depth of two to two and a quarter inches at a tempo of 100 to 120 beats per minute, or the difference between “Sweet Home, Alabama,” and the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” After thirty compressions, you give two even breaths. Emphasis on even. You want your breaths to reach the lungs and not the stomach. Always perform your compressions hard. If you think you can thrust the heel of your palm further into the victim’s chest, do so. You might hear all sorts of noises, tearing, snapping, all kinds of sounds. This is normal, and according to the instructor, preferable to performing the compressions too lightly. After that, it’s a matter of when the automated external defibrillator device gets there.
If you’re at a place that has an AED, the prompts are easy to follow. Once turned on, most devices talk you through the process. The pads themselves have illustrations of where you’ll place them on the victim. To shave or not to shave? In the past, I thought shaving the chest to prevent interference with the AED’s electric shock was prioritized. Not so in this class.
Which makes sense, especially in an every-second-counts situation. Manscaping? Unless your victim is “just really hairy,” we ain’t got time for that! CPR is something I think everyone should know. If you’re interested in taking a class or learning more about today’s protocols for administering it, contact the American Heart Association or American Red Cross at www.heart.org, or redcross.org respectively.