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Saving lives, one dummy at a time

By Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 15, 2005
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In light of recent tragedy, I decided to give blood for the first time. It’s easy to feel helpless when donating $5 seems like an extravagance, but I wanted to do something. As I listened to the horrific accounts of misplaced children, I thought about jumping in my car, gathering them all up and turning my home into a daycare. My lofty plans faded away as I thought about the classes I would miss, as well as the fact that my small home would not offer these children any relief.

One day, as I drove past the American Red Cross, I realized that there was something I could do that would help. I’d never given blood before, but it seemed to me like I had quite a bit, and who am I to withhold my precious bodily fluids from someone in need?
When I got home, I called the Red Cross to make an appointment for someone to hook my arm up to some sort of blood-removal system. In light of my obvious curiosity, the lovely woman on the other end of the phone suggested I check out the organization’s Web site. When I was younger, I was anemic (a nasty side effect of poorly-executed vegetarianism), and I knew that nobody wanted my blood. However, now that I live the tasty life of a carnivore, I figured I was in the clear. Sometimes I’m wrong.

As I scrolled down the long list of possible reasons that no one would want my blood, I realized that despite the now iron-rich liquid coursing through my veins, I was not an eligible blood donor. Unfortunately, a bout with mono last year left me with hepatitis (not the sex or drugs kind, thank you very much), and while my yellow skin and bloated liver returned to normal, my blood didn’t.

Feeling semi-dejected and defeated, I wondered what I could do. The more I thought about the devastation on the Gulf Coast, the more anxious I became. Images of tsunamis and terrorism came to mind as I realized that tragedy happens every day. Instead of letting depression wreak havoc on my idealistic mind, I decided to be proactive. If there was something I could do that could prevent another life from ending, I was determined to do it. I decided to learn CPR.

To be perfectly honest, my interest in obtaining my Heartsaver CPR certification was not completely altruistic. My part-time job requires the training, and I’d be remiss not to mention that. That being said, I’d like to imagine that I would have pursued the course even if I needed to pay for it myself.

The only class that my coworkers and I could all attend was held in a faraway land called “Catalina.” We gossiped, as women are wont to do, all the hourlong drive, laughing and enjoying our “day trip.” However, once we entered the classroom, our joviality was replaced by the utmost of seriousness. The fireman/EMT/really serious guy who was in charge of teaching us the dos and don’ts of sticking our mouths on someone else (we’ll call him “Harry,” as to retain some sort of fictitiousness) immediately launched into a scary tirade about what he called “the legal umbrella.” Apparently there are a lot of reasons why people sue, and Harry wanted to make sure we understood how to cover our own backsides.

As the next four hours slowly passed, I learned it’s important to use mouth guards, as the CPR recipient might vomit into my CPR-giving mouth. I also learned that it’s bad form to accept payment for my life-saving skills, and it’s not cool to pass on performing my newfound abilities. Yes, that’s right — if I see someone who needs CPR, I cannot pass her by, even if she might throw up into my mouth.

As I practiced saving the life of a fairly neuter plastic dummy, I was told that doing chest compressions usually leads to breaking ribs. Harry told us that we shouldn’t worry when we hear bones crack or feel “things getting mushy,” because it’s actually making our job easier.

While the prospect of actually being called to action scares me to pieces, it’s nice to know that I could potentially do something to save a life. It may not be as in demand as money or blood, but knowing how to perform CPR is extremely valuable. Just do me a favor: If you’re going to need CPR, please don’t pass out in front of me. If you can’t resist that, please try to refrain from vomiting in my mouth.

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