Leah M. McDonald submitted 2020-10-30

I was first introduced and trained in CPR when I took the Safe Sitter at the age of 12. I was really excited to start watching younger children but at that age, you don’t realize how CPR can save lives. I found out several months later just how important these lifesaving skills can be. I was being watched by a family friend while my parents were out to dinner and I started choking. Fortunately for me, the older gentlemen that was watching me had been in the military and was trained to perform Basic Life Support skills like the Heimlich maneuver. He was able to stop me from choking before I became unconscious and CPR was necessary. For me, it was a very scary experience and it is still very vivid in my memory.

Since then, I have continued my training and became an American Red Cross Lifeguard at the age of 16. For this certification, one must complete CPR and AED as well as First Aid for professional rescuers. I have worked as a lifeguard for five years now. The first 2.5 years I worked at the aquatic center in my hometown and since then, I’ve been working as a lifeguard at the YMCA near the college I attend. On one occasion at my old aquatic facility, I had a mother run up to another lifeguard and me with her son unconscious and not breathing in her arms. We had to react quickly and respond calmly and confidently in that situation with the skills we had been taught. You must clear your mind of all that chaos that is occurring and focus on what you know. Concentrate on evaluating and caring for that patient until medical professionals can take over.

I also worked at a hospital for a short time as an intern and I know how scary it is when there is a “Code Blue” announced over the intercom and all nurses in the rooms around me run down the hallway to assist. Throughout my life so far, I have seen and dealt with instances where Basic Life Support saves lives.

My advice to anyone who may have to perform life saving techniques is to approach the scene calmly and confidently. You will have an adrenaline rush but you must focus on what you’ve been taught. In my case, during my shifts, I’m constantly analyzing my surroundings and thinking about how I would respond to possible situations. Where is the safest place to have a person if an emergency situation arises? Who else in the facility is trained to assist me? How will I communicate with others to get an AED and have EMS called and on the way? What can I do to keep the other patrons from being traumatized by the situation? These are all questions I am asking myself whenever I am working, especially if I’m in a new setting. If you aren’t 100 percent confident in your skills or it has been a while since you’ve done any training or refreshers, I recommend reaching out to supervisors or coworkers so you can feel confident and prepared if a situation requiring these skills arises. The YMCA I work at is adamant about holding monthly inservices to review rescue skills or BLS skills. We have unannounced drills twice a year to make sure we can make a rescue and start CPR within a certain amount of time. I believe that these skills must be reviewed often to be effectively recalled in crisis situations. As a swim teacher, I also teach my students who to go to if they need help and how to safely help someone in need. Saving lives can start at any age, not just once an individual is professionally trained.

We also must remember that these situations may not always arise in our places of employment but also when we are out in the community. Whether you are at school, the grocery store, or anywhere else, confidence in your skills could allow you to help a community member who is having a medical emergency until emergency personnel arrive.

No matter your profession, I believe that BSL and ACLS are very important to have. I am currently a junior attending Concordia University Wisconsin majoring in rehabilitation sciences and minoring in exercise physiology. Over the summer, I applied to the doctorate of physical therapy program at Concordia University Wisconsin. In one of my classes, I am learning to run stress tests with EKG and it is important to know how to respond because although rare, there is a risk that these tests could cause heart attack, stroke, or even death. A very important point my professor has made over and over is the importance of skilled technicians who can respond to emergencies. In my future profession as a physical therapist, I will work with patients of all kinds from orthopedic, to neurological and cardiopulmonary. One may never know when they may need these BLS skills. Some may assume that Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support is reserved for doctors and nurses but it is important for all health professions and the general public too.