By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
When it comes to saving lives, I used to be such a dummy that I couldn’t even spell CPR. But I recently took a CPR class in which the instructor used me as a dummy. Now I am a lifesaver. And if you’re ever choking on one, I can save your life.
I was transformed from a nervous wreck who knew only the Heineken maneuver (“You’re choking? Have a beer!”) to a confident guy who also knows the Heimlich (“Pop goes the Life Saver!”) by Tom Henry, the dashing, funny, extremely impressive trainer who taught the CPR class I took at work.
I was among 17 aspiring heroes in the auditorium, where Tom had assembled the tools of his trade: masks, defibrillators and, of course, dummies, of which I would be the biggest.
“These mannequins and dolls are my second family, except they don’t talk back,” said Tom, 55, a former New York City CSI detective (“It was boring compared to the TV show,” he acknowledged) who now runs an American Heart Association-approved CPR training center.
The mannequins and dolls came in three sizes: adult, child and baby. Since the adults were only heads and torsos, Tom wanted to demonstrate on a real-life dummy.
“Jerry!” he said, pointing in my direction. “Come on up.”
I bounded to the middle of the spacious room and was asked to lie on the floor, next to an adult mannequin.
Tom gazed down and said, “The dummy is better-looking.”
Then he ran through the possibilities of why I might need CPR, among them a heart attack or a bad fall.
“If I hit my head,” I said, “I wouldn’t get hurt.”
“I can see why,” said Tom, adding that one of the first things to do is to take off the victim’s shirt in case a defibrillator is needed. “I am NOT going to take off Jerry’s shirt,” he announced.
My colleagues, both men and women, breathed an audible sigh of relief.
Tom then said mouth-to-mouth resuscitation might be needed.
“Am I going to lock lips with Jerry?” he asked. “No way!”
Instead, he demonstrated the technique used in pumping the victim’s chest to keep the heart beating. It didn’t hurt because Tom didn’t use full force — he saved that for the mannequin — but it did tickle.
When Tom was finished, he helped me up and announced, “We saved Jerry!”
My colleagues applauded, which also did my heart good, though I’m sure none of them wanted to lock lips with me, either.
“When performing CPR, you can’t worry about hurting somebody,” Tom said. “If a person is in cardiac arrest, they’re dead. You can’t make it worse. You can’t hurt somebody who’s dead. Although in Jerry’s case,” he added, “it might be difficult to tell the difference.”
Later, Tom used me to demonstrate how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
“Despite what Jerry says,” he noted, “it doesn’t involve beer. You have to do this if a person is choking.”
Tom got behind me and put his arms around my middle, showing the class how to force out whatever might be lodged (a Wint O Green Life Saver, perhaps, or an entire Happy Meal) in my upper airway.
“You should be careful when doing this to someone who’s pregnant,” Tom advised.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m not.”
“No,” Tom replied, “but you are kind of flabby.”
We used the mannequins to learn how to perform CPR and do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“If you were breathing into Jerry’s mouth,” Tom told my classmates, “you’d have to hope he brushed his teeth.”
“I did that yesterday,” I said.
The last thing we learned was how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator), which was demonstrated on a mannequin.
“We’re not going to jump-start Jerry,” Tom said. “He’s been through enough today.”
But it was well worth it. The three-hour class was fun, fascinating and vital. And Tom was a great instructor.
“You were great, too,” he said when the session was over. “In fact, when it comes to CPR, you’re a real dummy.”
Copyright 2017 by Jerry Zezima