A breath of life just in the nick of time

5 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. Kel Clark

It is a beautiful day outside. People are laughing together, couples are holding hands and children are running around having a great time. Nothing could seem to take away from the fun and excitement this day is presenting.

Suddenly, a man drops to the ground and goes into cardiac arrest and the scenic dream just turns into an epic nightmare. At least, it would have been if it had not been for the speedy response from a nearby Marine or emergency medical technician, coming to save the day.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency procedure for people in cardiac arrest or, in some circumstances, respiratory arrest.

“It is a technique that keeps the brain and other vital organs alive when the heart is in great distress,” said Richard Ellis, a firefighter paramedic with the Air Station Structural Fire and Emergency Services Department. “We teach CPR classes here for our firefighters and anyone who wants to learn more about it.”

During CPR classes taught on the Air Station, firefighters learn how to open the airways and how to perform CPR with respirations and chest compressions. However, if the class involves other participants who aren’t firefighters, they are taught  the same lessons but without respirations.

“Respirations is left out because when someone goes into a cardiac arrest and needs assistance, people are hesitant to do respirations because there is no type of barrier device,” Ellis said. “Although it is not as effective as respirations, chest compressions are beneficial because it pumps blood through the body and it keeps air flowing through the lungs.”

The Air Station has nine firefighting paramedics, and all of them are CPR certified emergency medical technicians.

The firefighters encourage people to take the CPR classes taught on the Air Station. They may never know when or where CPR may need to be administered.

“We have used CPR about five times already this year  here,” Ellis said. “One of the times I remember was during the (Beaufort Air Show), a Marine actually
administered CPR to a civilian, and by the time the emergency team got to the scene, the civilian was able to survive, thanks to the Marine.

“When someone is in cardiac arrest, it takes us time to get to the scene,” Ellis continued. “The victim can suffer from a lack of oxygen and a loss of brain cells within five minutes. If we can teach CPR to everyone here, they are helping preserve brain cells and life.”

At the end of the day, firefighters appreciate what CPR does for people and how it can eventually pay off in the end.

“It is rare to have someone come back and shake your hand for saving their life,” said Charles Bumgardner, a firefighter paramedic also with the Fire Department. “To us, that is the ultimate prize.”