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Oakland Save-a-Life Event, Bay Area Red Cross

Red Cross teaches emergency medical skills on Save-A-Life Saturday

on March 21, 2011

The American Red Cross Bay Area chapter participated in a national Save-A-Life event Saturday, offering four free classes in Oakland and San Jose aimed at teaching local residents essential life-saving techniques.

“We’re just touching on the most important topics in this one-hour class and encouraging people to go deeper and take other classes,” said Melanie Finke, the Director of Media and Communications for the Bay Area Red Cross chapter.

Participants were taught “citizen CPR,” or hands-only CPR techniques, as well as the proper way to control external bleeding and how to recognize and treat a victim who is going into shock.

The event was held in honor of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and the other victims of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona on January 8. Giffords was holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway grocery store when Jared Lee Loughner shot her in the head and then turned his gun on the crowd. Nineteen people were shot, six fatally, including nine year-old Christina Taylor Green.

Red Cross chapters all across the country taught Save-A-Life classes on Saturday after being approached by the Giffords’ family, who wanted local citizens to have the opportunity to learn about basic life-saving techniques that could be administered by non-medical personnel in an emergency.

It was the quick thinking of one of Congresswoman Giffords’ interns, Daniel Hernandez, at the scene of the January shooting in Tucson that her doctors said likely saved her life. Hernandez, 20, had only been working in Giffords’ district office in Tucson for five days when the congresswoman was shot. But he had received basic nursing training in high school, and used those skills to correctly apply pressure to Giffords’ head wound until paramedics arrived on the scene to continue her treatment.

“I could tell she had a very severe gunshot but I was just trying do my best until emergency medical services could arrive,” Hernandez told NBC’s Matt Lauer in January.

Hernandez also instructed a bystander on how to control the bleeding of another gunshot victim on the scene that Saturday morning in Tucson, a point class instructor Jeff McGallian encouraged the Oakland class participants on Saturday to become comfortable doing.

“You can be a trainer right then and there,” he said. “You need to be able to say, ‘Watch me, and then take over.’”

Class participants practiced the correct CPR hands-only techniques on dummies and wrapped gauze around imaginary wounds to complete their training. The hands-only chest compression techniques are meant to help re-start the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest and is unresponsive and not breathing. Full CPR also involves performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to help someone resume breathing, but as Saturday’s teachers pointed out, it can be uncomfortable, and sometimes even unsafe, to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a stranger. Saturday’s training focused on dealing with common, everyday health emergencies rather than with the circumstances of violent crime.

“Gunshot wounds aren’t that common,” Finke said. “Most adults stop breathing because of a heart situation. But even if you don’t have full CPR training, you can still save a life, because you’re ensuring that the person has the opportunity to receive further care.”

Teachers McGallian and Serena Jolley reminded the class several times that the CPR techniques taught Saturday are meant to be used on adults only—infants and children rarely, if ever, have a cardiac event. Any distress a child shows in an emergency is likely of a respiratory nature—choking or asthma attacks are likely culprits—and performing CPR would be a useless activity.

Jess and Deborah Almeida of Pleasanton brought their teenage daughters Jessica and Sarah to the event Saturday. The entire family came for their own personal reasons: Jess, who owns an online emergency and survival kit store, was required to attend because he is about to start Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in Pleasanton, and Deborah is around high school kids on a daily basis. They also wanted their daughters to be trained before they begin babysitting.

“Now I’ll know what to do if a kid is choking or passes out,” said thirteen-year-old Sarah Almeida.

“Plus, their parents will feel more comfortable,” her father added.

The Save-A-Life classes would normally cost participants $25, but were provided free nationwide thanks to donations made by Safeway and Walgreens. Finke expected over 150 participants during the four Bay Area sessions on Saturday.

To watch training videos from Saturday, visit the American Red Cross’s Save-A-Life website. For information about skills classes in the Bay Area, visit the American Red Cross – Bay Area’s website.

Photo: Jess Almeida (l) watches as his daughter Sarah practices hands-only CPR at an American Red Cross Save-a-Life event, held in Oakland on Saturday, March 19.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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