Thursday, February 25, 2010

Former Emergency Med Tech Rediscovers Heart Resuscitation

14 years ago, I was certified as an emergency medical technician and served on my small town volunteer ambulance team for 3 years during my summer breaks from college.

5 months ago, I got my dream job at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago after a decade of health care work.

Today I took an CPR / First Aid / AED class to meet one of several requirements that would allow me to volunteer with a Red Cross relief effort abroad.

I thought the class would be boring and a rehash of a bunch of stuff I had already learned, used in the field, written about and taught for years, but I was dead wrong.

Compared to a decade ago, the mannequins are more economical (which I appreciated), the instructions are more comprehensive and clear (which my classmates appreciated), and I'm delighted by the user-friendliness of the AEDs, which were new in the field when I last learned CPR. My teacher, Danielle Bohrer, was just better than any instructor I'd had before.

The real education occurred, however, during the breaks when I was learned why people take a CPR / First Aid / AED class in the first place.

(Students learn CPR in a course today and the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.)

One couple, seemingly enjoying retirement, wanted to learn the skills before they embarked on 9 month boat trip together. They held hands for much of the class. Another gentleman who worked for a company that makes anchors intended to improve workplace safety. Near him, sat a man who hoped to grow in his job and "just know that he could save someone if something happened." The look in his eye made clear the importance.

After the break, we covered content that was pretty familiar to me, so my mind wandered. I thought about how their lives were woven -- this couple about to set off to sea, this anchormaker, and this man whose story clearly ran deeper.

I thought about how long it has been that I've wanted do humanitarian work in Chicago and abroad. A question about using duct tape as part of a splint jarred my attention back. From then on, I paid due attention to this business of resuscitating a heart.

-- By Jackie Mitchell, Director of Marketing and Communications and "Superfan," American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. @your_mssunshine

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