CPR or Bust

I spent all day Friday—eight hours—tucked into a squat office building getting my very first CPR and First Aid training and certification. I’m almost thirty-five years old. Isn’t that a pretty long time to go without having any clue of how to really perform CPR? To even see an Epi pen in person, an AED (defibrillator) or, hell, even know without thinking about it what “CPR” is an acronym for? (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which most of us can suss out for ourselves, but it should roll of the tongue a lot easier).

It turns out, no. I’m far from a special snowflake. There are enormous lots of us who have never taken a CPR or First Aid course. Even fewer of us have also taken the training for adults, kids and newborns. Fewer still routinely re-take training and certification every two years as required and recommended.

I’m kind of surprised about the whole thing—and about just how hard you need to “pump” the sternum! For all my weightlifting and strength, I have incredibly weak hands. It was never more apparent than in that class (luckily, there are options for those like me).

Is Your Child’s Teacher Certified?

Even more surprising was what I learned about public schools’ complete lack of CPR prioritization. The instructor was a former EMT, has a child in the Portland area school district, and is behind a bill aimed to get teachers certified in CPR and first aid training. Requirements will vary state to state and region to region, but I was told that the Portland area is pretty comparable to everywhere else in the US. The state standards require that six people in each public school, usually staff instead of faculty, are certified in CPR. That’s it. The odds of a teacher recognizing cardiac arrest, being able to find someone who knows CPR, get them to the classroom, call the police and get an AED in the few minutes a child has to survive are slim to none.

Unless your child’s teacher has taken it upon themselves to get and maintain certification, they’re not going to know what to do if a child has respiratory arrest. Most children have respiratory arrest instead of cardiac, simply because breathing problems are more common in children than heart problems. However, respiratory arrest turns into cardiac arrest after two minutes. And once you’re in sudden cardiac arrest? You’re basically as good as dead unless someone immediately 1) starts CPR and 2) gets an AED.

CPR alone likely won’t save anyone. An AED alone likely won’t save anyone. There are freak occurrences, sure, but the odds are around five percent. CPR and an AED together offer a survival rate of around 70-ish percent.

Oh, and respiratory arrest? It’s much better (wow, that’s relative) than cardiac, but you just have two minutes before it turns full-on cardiac. And the care for respiratory arrest is different than cardiac arrest.

Most parents rightly assume their child’s teacher knows CPR and First Aid. You know what they say about assumptions, though.

CPR for Wellness

Working in an environment where I both teach fitness classes and heavily follow a fitness regimen myself means I’m more likely to be around people who will need some type of care—including myself one day. There are a slew of professionals who are required to have CPR and First Aid training. In Oregon, they can include kayak guides, personal trainers, lifeguards and more. But not teachers. Not babysitters, and not parents.

Was it particularly fun to give my entire Friday over to this training? No. I’d much rather have gone on my usual Friday noon hike followed by my yoga class. Still, eight hours isn’t much to give up to potentially save a life. Wellness is a very holistic and vague word. Is it “more important” to nail crow pose or know CPR? More important to go up in your free weights for squats or know CPR? The answer is obvious.

But is it “more important” to never miss your physical therapy appointment or know CPR? More important to lower your fasting blood glucose levels ten digits when you’re pre-diabetic, or know CPR? That’s when the answers can get tough.

What it comes down to is that taking CPR training is a relatively easy, inexpensive and fast way to save a life.

If you want to check out the bill created by my instructor, click here.

(Photo is personal … and my “baby” for the day).


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