On Saturday I retook my First Aid training. This time I decided to train with Alert First-Aid and their Fitness First Aid and CPR Level A. I chose this company because they are associated with the Canadian Red Cross and BCRPA – and – though I may not have mentioned it, I am taking the YMCA Group Fitness Certification training and afterwards, working to become BCRPA certified. It was a one day training and I found it quite confusing because the Instructor kept saying things like ‘you’ll learn this tomorrow’.

It turned out there were only 3 of us out of about a dozen who were taking the one day Fitness First Aid course. Most of the others were coming back on Sunday for more training and writing an exam. I was beginning to think I had read the course description incorrectly. I would have been more comfortable if the instructor had explained at the beginning that people were taking different certifications all in the same class.

Compared to the St. John Ambulance course I took last time, the equipment at Alert First-Aid was more minimal. The St. John Ambulance ‘Annie’ responded to CPR (i.e. the chest rose when doing CPR and breathing in into it); they may have had those at Alert First-Aid but the ones we worked on only gave feedback on chest compressions.  But still, it gave me quite an appreciation to remember how much effort it takes. My brain tells me that I could keep on doing CPR for a long time, but realistically I probably wouldn’t be able to go for more than 5 rounds – a round being 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. Of course in an emergency with the adrenaline flowing, who knows? But my wrists were aching by the time we finished the CPR portion of the course.

It was also the first time I learned how to use an AED, an Automated External Defibrillator. It wasn’t a functioning unit we were practicing on, but seemed very realistic – it made all the sounds but no shock was delivered. I was very nervous about using it. There were only the 3 of us fitness teachers left at the end of the day taking this part and I was paired with the Instructor so I got to practice it twice. I was more confident the second time through, but that is when I really started to feel my wrists and shoulders. I was earnestly counting the 30 compressions doing CPR earlier in the day, but I was sore and distracted enough doing the AED that I kept losing count. The AED units do talk you through every step however, and tell you when to begin doing the compressions again, even giving you a beat to follow, and when to stop. I learned that the likelihood of reviving someone if you have an AED unit available is about 60%. With CPR alone the likelihood of reviving someone is low – however keeping someone’s blood circulating until medical attention arrives is crucial to their survival.

This is a fascinating video taken at Bondi Beach, Australia of lifeguards using AED to resuscitate a man found unconscious in the water.

Overall I was quite pleased with the course, though the building was cold and the room we were in was really dismal. It was originally a school, and I found myself wondering what classes were taught there and how bleak it must have been. But there was free coffee and tea offered at least. The instruction was quite fast paced and interactive without being intimidating. The instructor took the time to relate what we were practicing to the occupations the students were in – though the only one that came up for a fitness instructor was someone falling off a treadmill – not too likely to happen in a Nia class!

Of course a medical emergency like fainting, dizziness or disorientation (for whatever reason) can happen anywhere to anyone. It isn’t always life threatening but almost always requires some help. One time when I was singing with The Avalon Singers, a woman fainted right at the end of the concert, just after the closing song and before we took our bows. Thank goodness it was nothing serious and she regained consciousness. There was a someone in the audience with medical training and 911 was called immediately.

Really, my wish is to never need to use this first aid training – I suppose most of us feel the same – but on the other hand if anything happened to me I would be very grateful if there was someone close by who knew what to do to help. It is a karma thing.

© Deborah Redfern, 2012. All rights reserved.

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