February is American Heart Month.
As most of you might know, my full-time job is as a photojournalist for Daily Tribune Media in Wisconsin Rapids. What you might not know is that on the side I'm an Emergency Medical Technician with the Stratford Area Fire Department and am currently going to night paramedic school at Mid-State Technical College's Wisconsin Rapids campus in Grand Rapids.
In Stratford, the Emergency Medical Services part of the department trains every third Monday of the month. We have very dedicated members of the department, with many not only trained as firefighters, but also trained in EMS.
Residents of small communities should be very proud of and relieved for those who take the time to become involved in EMS and fire services.
Hours and hours of training go into becoming licensed in the field of EMS, from First Responders to Emergency Medical Technicians to Paramedics. The up side for a community is the knowledge that its EMS members are very highly trained and need to keep training to be re-certified.
The down side is that no matter how often, how hard we train, no matter how quickly EMS responds to an incident, even seconds, minutes, after a cardiac event may happen, those seconds and minutes might be too late.
This is where the people in all our communities need to be involved, by being trained in CPR.
No matter where an event might happen, in a smaller community like Stratford, or a larger community like Marshfield, Wisconsin Rapids or Stevens Point, cardiac events happen all the time. It could be at a family restaurant in Stratford, in the lobby of a hospital or clinic in Marshfield, on campus at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point or at a girls basketball game in Wisconsin Rapids. The moment something happens is the moment that the public need to take action to help try and save a life.
Sometime during last year's basketball season at Lincoln High School, I had just left after photographing the game and headed back to the Daily Tribune to make my deadline.
Upon arriving at the Tribune, the police scanner went off. A player had been injured in the game, and an ambulance was needed. Moments later, another call went out at the same game; an individual was having a cardiac issue. Two ambulances from the Wisconsin Rapids Fire department were sent to the scene.
I was thinking as I listened, I hope that there is someone in the stands trained in CPR.
If a family member, friend or stranger has an issue, would you know what to do?
Part of my EMS training involves health care provider CPR instruction, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, or ACLS, training and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, or PALS, training.
The ACLS and PALS training that I had to be trained in and pass to get my ACLS and PALS cards, was the same training that fire departments, health care facility staff members and others take in order do advanced skills in case of a cardiac issue, but high quality CPR, a skill that anybody can learn and can become an "expert" in, is at the heart of the advanced training.
In an effort to get more citizens trained in CPR, the Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department will offer Heartsaver CPR classes throughout this year. Classes will be from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 19, 8 a.m. to noon June 10, noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 18 and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 3. Classes will teach adult and child CPR and how to use an Automated External Defibrillator, said Todd Eckes, captain of operations/fire marshall for the department.
Cost is $10, which covers the cost of generating the American Heart Association CPR/AED card.
To sign up to attend a session or with questions, call 715-421-6281 (office) or 715-213-7088 (cell).