By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Being the kind of person who is calm in any emergency, which means I am more likely to faint than spring into action, I always thought I could save a choking victim by performing the Heineken maneuver. This involves clearing the victim’s air passage with beer and then calling 911 so people who actually know what they are doing could be the heroes.
Now that I have taken a CPR class, however, I am trained to save people’s lives without killing them in the process.
Before I took this class, which was offered at work, CPR stood for comically pathetic response, which was pretty much all I could offer to anyone in trouble. Now, I realize, it stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which is easier to perform than pronounce.
The instructor for the eight-person class was John Cannon, a 32-year-old former Air Force medic whose name makes him sound like an action star.
"You were destined to be a hero," I told him.
"Shucks," replied Cannon, who is as modest as he is muscular. His secret identity is as a mild-mannered security guard.
Cannon, who achieved the rank of senior airman E4 in the Air Force, told me about his most memorable emergency response. "Someone slipped doing laundry," he recalled. "She was a young woman, 22 or 23 years old, and she was on the floor. I don’t know if she slipped on soap or what, but the fire department showed up in full gear with a backboard brace and everything. The woman was yelling, ‘I’m fine!’ But she had to be taken out on a stretcher. The laundry got left behind."
"I should pull that on my wife," I told Cannon.
"You do laundry?" he said, clearly impressed. "What a guy!"
"Shucks," I replied modestly.
The class opened with a video of a man who falls off a ladder at work. A colleague rushes to his aid.
"What should the co-worker do before calling 911?" Cannon asked us.
"Call the guy’s lawyer," I suggested.
"Maybe later," Cannon said. "But first he should ask the guy if he’s all right and assess the situation to see if he needs CPR. Then he should call 911."
After showing us how to perform CPR on a dummy, Cannon set up a similar situation for the class, which he split into teams of two. My partner was Peggy Brown, a colleague who played the responder. I, of course, was the dummy.
Following Cannon’s instructions, Peggy rushed up to me and asked, "Are you OK?"
"Help!" I moaned while sprawled on the floor. "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up."
"You’re supposed to be unconscious," Cannon informed me.
"I talk in my sleep," I said.
"He’s delirious, which is nothing out of the ordinary," Peggy remarked. Then she rolled me over and checked my air passage.
"Don’t worry," I whispered, "I brushed my teeth this morning. Or was it yesterday morning?"
Peggy ignored me and, even though she had every reason not to, took action that would have saved my life.
We then switched roles, after which we learned how to dislodge objects that can block air passages. I played the victim. This time I was standing up.
"Are you choking?" Peggy asked.
"Gack, gack, gack!" I responded.
Peggy turned me around and performed the Heimlich maneuver, which made me giggle because I’m ticklish. She also bent me over slightly and used her palm to hit me on the back, which Cannon said is more effective.
We watched more videos, followed our instruction booklets and did more drills. We learned the ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation), CCCs (check, call, care) and AEDs (automated external defibrillators) of CPR.
I even got a perfect score on the written test that Cannon gave us.
At the end of the four-hour class, I was certified in CPR. Now I can save people without risking their lives. It’s a good feeling. And very important, which is why I would recommend emergency training for everyone.
That way, if my life were in danger, you could save me, in which case CPR would stand for crazy person resuscitation. Afterward, I’ll show my appreciation by teaching you the Heineken maneuver.
Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima