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Last week, I learned how to save a life

*cue in music by The Fray*

No, I’m not being dramatic. I did learn how to save a life…theoretically, anyway. That’s because I took a class on CPR, AED, and first aid for adults.

You probably know what CPR is — cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or revival techniques like chest compressions and what we often call “mouth to mouth” — but if you’re anything like me, you’re might be going “huh?” about AED. It stands for “automated external defibrillator,” that handy device that “shocks” a failing or irregular heart into proper rhythm. But more about that later.

I’d never planned on attending such a class, but when my brother invited me to join him and his team, I figured I might as well give it a shot. You never know when it’ll come in handy, right? They hired a team of licensed medics, and we all gathered bright and early on a Saturday morning for a full day of lectures and exercises.

Our detailed manual, plus a handy digest to keep in our wallets!

Our detailed manual, plus a handy digest to keep in our wallets!

We covered a lot of ground in eight or so hours, from basic terminologies to proper first aid treatment for common injuries, but the most memorable lessons by far were the ones we learned through hands-on practice. Guess what topped the list?

A different kind of workout on a Saturday morning!

A different kind of workout on a Saturday morning!

Yep, you got it–CPR. Or to be precise, chest compressions.

I’d never given much though to it before. Of course, I’ve seen it being done in movies and such, but I never fully realized how hard it is. Now, I know. It is exhausting. It isn’t so much the force involved (which often results to injured/cracked ribs on the part of the ‘patient,’ or so I’m told), it’s more of the duration that really drains your energy. The ideal rate of compressions is 100 per minute. Minimum. And–here’s the kicker–you’re supposed to keep it up until the emergency response team comes along. So basically, you’ll have to keep pumping until…well, until you can’t go on anymore.

We split up into pairs and traded off doing continuous compressions for 10 minutes while our trainer shouted for us to go “faster, harder, deeper.” I kid you not. Let me tell you, I had a hard time keeping my arms locked while laughing and trying to get a breath in. It took all of my admittedly limited stamina to get through that exercise, but they say that when the time comes that I need to put my CPR skills to the test, adrenaline will kick in.

I sure do hope I’ll never have to use this on anyone, but just in case, I’m going to work on my upper-body strength (and try for that marathon, too).


Trying out the demo AED on a helpless dummy

After practicing out our rescue breaths on our mannequins–not mouth-to-mouth, because you’ll ideally use a mask or shield–we received a crash course on AED. I learned that more than just “shocking” a person back to life, this device actually diagnoses the state of that person’s heartbeat and instructs you when you need to administer electric therapy or defibrillation. We didn’t get to try it out, but with the step-by-step voice instructions (ala Siri or Waze), it should be pretty easy to use. One note that stuck with me is hair. For the electric current to be effective, you’ve got to stick the electrode pads directly on skin, which means you’ll have to shave any hair that are covering the application areas.

Our last hands-on exercise involved a lot of rescue lifting. We did one person lifts…


Two person lifts…


And three person lifts…


How’s that for a unique team-building activity?

Aside from the above, I learned that toothpaste is not a proper first-aid remedy for burns (who was it who told me it was, anyway?), that the recovery position involves turning the patient onto his side, and that it’s standard procedure to ask the patient first if he needs help (if he’s responsive, that is).

First aid training isn’t necessarily easy, but it is important. Have you had yours already?

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