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Just last week at Philomath High School, the folks from our local fire department guided a class of 58 juniors through some very important and useful training.

Back in 2015, a new state law established the requirement that students in grades 7-12 receive at least once instruction in CPR and the use of AEDs using training developed by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross or another organization with nationally recognized training protocols.

At Philomath High, the training is given to juniors in Donna Carter’s health class. Philomath Fire & Rescue Capt. Rich Saalsaa, who is licensed in such instruction and leads the training, said the class includes adult, child and infant training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED), as well as how to respond when someone is choking.

Philomath Fire & Rescue last week conducted a CPR/AED class for local high school juniors. (Photo by Capt. Rich Saalsaa, Philomath Fire & Rescue)

I know firsthand how this knowledge can save someone’s life. Coincidentally, back in the fall of 1982 when I was a junior at Maryvale High School in Glendale, Arizona, our health class covered CPR training. And within days after we had received that instruction, this new knowledge was put to use to save someone in my own family.

We lived in a house with a fenced-in backyard. My younger stepsister’s bedroom faced the backyard and we were in there playing a board game. My older stepsister had two small children, including my 18-month-old niece who was running around in the backyard.

The board game we were playing was violently interrupted by cries outside of my stepsister’s bedroom window. My little niece had a dirt bike on top of her and she wasn’t breathing. She had obviously pulled it down on top of her.

My dad, who had many years of experience in the military behind him, ran into the backyard to evaluate the situation. Many of our family members were crying and distraught but my dad remained calm. While 911 was being called, he started CPR. But it didn’t seem to be doing any good.

As I watched this situation unfold, I also somehow remained very calm. I blocked out all of the emotion and seriousness of the situation. I quickly realized that my dad’s CPR technique wasn’t quite right and I kneeled beside them to offer information that I had just learned in that high school class.

It wasn’t long before she was resuscitated and emergency help arrived. In fact, a helicopter landed on a street near our house and flew her off to the hospital. Today, she has a family of her own and will be turning 41 years old here in a few months.

I don’t take any credit for saving her — my dad is the one who immediately sprung into action and I only offered support. But it was a moment that I’ll never forget and one that made me realize the value of educating yourself. And I tell you what … I had a great story to share with my health class the following week at school.

Learning these skills can obviously save someone’s life. Back in 2018, I wrote a story about Philomath resident Severn Thomas, who suffered a ventricular fibrillation episode while cycling with a good friend, Kurt Hill. After making the 911 call, Hill went into action and started chest compressions to get the blood flowing. Thomas survived and is still with us today thanks to his friend, who was trained in CPR.

Would you know how to respond if someone’s having a cardiac arrest emergency? How about if a person start’s choking? Individuals suffering in those circumstances will need you until emergency responders can arrive.

Philomath Fire & Rescue provides a monthly, instructor-led course that teaches first aid, CPR and the use of AEDs. Skills covered in the first aid portion of the course includes how to treat bleeding, sprains, broken bones, shock and other types of emergencies.

The next class is scheduled for Feb. 19 and in the following months on specific Saturdays. Saalsaa said classes can also be set up for businesses. Get in touch with the Fire & Rescue for all of the details or check out the website.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).