By Abbie Digel, Explorebigsky.com Editor
Pushing hard and fast in the middle of a cardiac arrest victim’s chest is all it takes to potentially save a life.
In the past five years, the American Heart Association has introduced a new hands-only method of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, where the process has been whittled down, leaving only two simple steps.
1) Call 911
2) Push hard and fast on the center of the chest
The Big Sky Fire Department hosted a Hands On CPR class at Big Sky Resort Feb. 21, in partnership with the Gallatin Heart Rescue, a Bozeman group dedicated to training as many people in the new method as possible.
About 20 people showed up that afternoon, watched two short videos, manually practiced on AMA dummies, and were finished with the training in about 45 minutes.
“Wait until you hear the ‘click’ in the dummy’s chest, and that is one compression,” said Martha Fecht, a Big Sky firefighter and instructor of the course. Real humans won’t ‘click’, she explained, but you need to push deeper than you think in order to keep blood moving through the body.
Hands on CPR involves performing deep chest compressions with the heel of the hand until medical responders, including firefighters or EMTs, arrive at the scene.
It’s harder than it looks, Fecht said, so it’s best to lean over the victim, placing all of your weight on your hands while compressing, and trade places with a partner so you don’t fatigue as easily.
With a goal to train 5,000 citizens in Gallatin County (5 percent of the population) in its first year, Gallatin Heart Rescue is making it easy for anyone to learn hands on CPR. They keep a tally running on their home page, and at press time, GHR had trained 300 people in Gallatin County—about 100 people a week.
Kevin Lauer, assistant fire chief and American Medical Rescue field training officer in Gallatin Gateway, helped initiate the program last summer when he and other pre-hospital caregivers saved the life of a Gallatin Gateway man within minutes of a heart attack. The man walked out of the hospital days later.
Before GHR was formed, there were six CPR saves since July 24, 2011.
“After that, I said, ‘Man we have got to be doing something,’” Lauer said.
If CPR isn’t provided to a victim of sudden cardiac arrest within a few minutes they will likely die, despite any advanced care delivered after the attack, Lauer said. The AMA notes that the hands on method works best on adult victims, because 99 percent of SCA victims are adults. It’s still important to know mouth to mouth for children, but chest compressions, delivered hard and fast on any victim, can save a life.
Anyone who has taken the class is eligible to teach one, Lauer says. Contact Gallatin Heart Rescue or the Big Sky Fire Department to acquire a ‘CPR class in a box’. The kit, which Lauer and his team developed, is portable and the class is easy to teach.
“We have participants practice chest compressions for three minutes just to see how tiring it can be,” Lauer said.
Certification in mouth-to-mouth can take hours, but with basic Hands On CPR, “we’re just trying to save lives, “ Lauer said. He noted that 80 percent of SCA victims collapse in their homes.
“I’m confident that soon, we are going to show up to a scene and someone who has been in one of our classes will be saving a life, right there on the ground.”