Local CPR classes attract interest

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Murylene Clements, of Suring, practices chest compressions on a mannequin during a CPR class Wednesday at Shawano Ambulance as paramedic Joel Magargle assists. The ambulance service plans to hold another class in order to get more people trained in CPR, with officials citing immediate CPR increases a person’s chances of survival.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation — CPR for short — can be a real lifesaver.

If you don’t believe that, just ask any of the paramedics with Shawano Ambulance.

The local service announced in July that it was going to teach CPR to anyone interested in learning but who did not want to go through a longer certification course. The announcement spread like wildfire, with the class filling within days and a waiting list building after that.

Because of that interest, Pat Trinko, Shawano Ambulance’s director of operations, said a second class is in the works, but a date has not yet been set. With the waiting list, that class could be up to two-thirds full once a date is announced.

Shawano Ambulance is teaching hands-only CPR, which is different than the standard CPR procedure. While CPR usually mixes chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth resuscitations, the hands-only procedure is strictly the chest compressions.

Kevin King, Shawano Ambulance’s CPR-certified instructor, said the hands-only CPR has a better chance of success because, depending on how excited a lifesaver is, the breaths can sometimes do harm.

“People that are overzealous … they tend to overventilate,” said King, who has been a CPR instructor for more than 20 years. “Once the lungs are full, where does the air go? Into the stomach. Once the stomach fills up, that tends to cause adverse effects.”

A stomach too full of air can induce vomiting, King said. If the vomit gets into the lungs, it further impairs the ability for air to circulate and taxes a person’s heart, which may already be impaired because a person has collapsed.

“By eliminating the breaths, we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” King said.

Traditional CPR still has its place, according to King. It just depends on the circumstances.

“CPR has evolved over the years, and we’re using something called evidence-based medicine,” King said. “We look at what is best going to help that person, and things are evolving very quickly because they’re finding that some of the things we used to do were not necessarily what the patient needs.”

As an example, King cited the belief previously that the first thing a person who has collapsed needs is oxygen, and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can do that. However, the oxygen in a person’s body doesn’t immediately dissipate once he or she loses consciousness, King said.

“It sits there. It’s not being used up,” he said. “Because of it, the hands-only CPR does a very effective job in restoring the circulation.”

Having as many people as possible who know CPR is important, King said. Statistically, every minute a person is down and not receiving lifesaving care reduces the survival chances by 10 percent, he said.

Shawano County only has a few ambulance services covering a wide area, so response times could be above 10 minutes depending on where the emergency happens, according to King. If CPR is not initiated quickly, it can be too late by the time paramedics arrive, he said.

“There are many people who live more than 10 minutes away from the ambulance station,” King said. “Statistically, those people have zero chance of survival without somebody else starting CPR. That’s what we’re trying to do here — getting family members to jump in.”

Shawano Ambulance doesn’t keep statistics on how many lives are saved locally from immediate CPR, but Trinko noted that most of the service’s calls regarding someone who has lost consciousness and/or stopped breathing had someone already implementing CPR when paramedics reach the scene.

“When reviewing our cardiac calls, bystander CPR is always a factor in a successful save,” Trinko said. “What we’ve realized is we need to educate the general public.”

King said everyone should know CPR and be ready to do it if needed. He said he’s heard too many tragic stories about people afraid to do it because their certification ran out or they were afraid they might break the person’s ribs if the chest compressions were executed too hard.

“There’s one thing for sure — if you don’t do anything, they’re going to die,” King said.