By Mary Ellen Psaltis
Each participant came for a different reason, but we all came for the same result. Everyone wanted to be competent at performing CPR, which stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The class of twenty included a personal trainer, a day care owner and one man putting together emergency preparedness materials for his neighborhood. Two were high school seniors and one was a senior citizen. Thurston County’s Medic One provides classes throughout our area so that everyone – anyone – can learn the most effective way to assist in an emergency and to perform CPR.
Thurston County’s Medic One/Emergency Medical Services works around the clock for our well-being. When started in 1974, they were the first countywide public EMS system in the United States. Since then Medic One continues to refine their services for optimal results. Over five hundred EMT’s serve in our county.
Call volumes for Thurston County’s Medic One continue to rise. Survival rates for our area are also on the rise, due to Medic One’s careful analysis of each call.
If you haven’t taken a CPR class recently, you might be surprised how much has changed over the years. Gone are the days of counting compressions and breaths. Now the emphasis is on starting CPR as soon as someone collapses and continuing non-stop. You still call 911 as soon as you notice the person is unresponsive, but then begin pushing and releasing on the person’s chest with your hands in a hard and fast manner.
Ron Wertz, long-time instructor, uses the Bee Gee’s song Staying Alive to get the proper rhythm. Wertz teaches free classes at the South Bay Fire Department, where he was a volunteer firefighter and paramedic for 34 years. His career was spent as a teacher and vice principal for North Thurston Public Schools. Though retired from the school and active fire duty, he continues to teach classes for Medic One. He has plenty of stories and experiences to keep you smiling as you gain skills.
It’s easy to find a class to fit your schedule, as they are held in numerous locations around the county and at various times. Preston Wallace, firefighter and paramedic, coordinates the CPR classes. Highly committed and fit, Wallace said, “I always wanted to be a firefighter. I always wanted to be an EMT.” Married with two children, it took him six years, but now he has work that is especially meaningful to him. He is active duty as a firefighter and oversees free CPR classes that happen in firehouses around the county. Classes can also be arranged for businesses and schools.
I took my renewal CPR class at Capital Medical Center from Dan Mahoney, Thurston #12 Tenino Fire Marshall and long time firefighter and EMT. He is the manager of the fire academy and loves having an impact on the trajectory of people’s careers. Eight fire districts have 30 students in the academy. This provides unity and clarity of training. Mahoney says is takes two years to accomplish all the necessary certifications. Mahoney has three adult children, two of them are career firefighters and one is a helicopter pilot for medical purposes. Mahoney’s class was packed with information and humor. When I left I felt confident I could perform CPR on anyone at anytime.
When your heart stops beating, you have about 7-12 minutes of reserve oxygen in your blood stream. That’s why knowing CPR is essential for optimal recovery. Wallace emphasizes that what is critical is what happens before the medics arrive. Valuable minutes can be wasted waiting for help to arrive. Did you know that 80% of cardiac events take place in a common setting like your home or the mall? Usually it’s someone you know. We can be grateful that your chances for surviving a cardiac arrest are far about the national average. It’s a woeful 3% in New York City; 15% nationwide and an impressive 50% in Thurston County. Medic One’s commitment to educating everyone and coordinating their services has made a big difference.
It is really true that a heart is in your hands. Thurston County Medic One wants you to be part of their system. When you begin CPR as soon as someone collapses, you double the chance of survival. Classes are free and held countywide. You can find a complete calendar of upcoming CPR classes by clicking here. Note that some classes are compression education only. There are longer classes that include the infant and child procedures. Contact Medic One with any questions.
Finally, here’s the quick review:
- If the person is unresponsive, call 911.
- Push and release on person’s chest with your hands – hard and fast.
- Keep pushing and releasing, don’t stop until instructed by the medic.