Have a heart, learn CPR
By: MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. Army Maj. Rick Connolly, an Army Nurse who also served as a paramedic for several years, thinks that Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR, is something everyone can learn very easily. Since 2007, new Soldiers have been trained on CPR and other lifesaving skills before graduating from basic combat training.

"I think everyone should know CPR regardless if you're a Soldier or not. CPR is a valuable skill that can help save lives within the military and civilian communities," Connolly said. "[CPR] is the strongest link in the chain of survival outside of calling 911 and early use of defibrillation when someone is having a cardiac arrest."

Connolly says that the CPR curriculum also teaches people how to remove an obstruction in the airway, how to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of both a heart attack and stroke.

Connolly has seen his share of emergencies on and off the battlefield and he knows without lifesaving skills to aid medical professionals many people would die. He is thankful that it is required for Soldiers entering the Army today. "I think Soldiers would be - just like the public - at a great disadvantage if they did not know CPR. Perhaps more so given the often austere environments Soldiers are in and the potential delayed response times from [medical evacuation helicopters] given time, distance, terrain, or enemy action. Additionally, when in uniform, a Soldier stands out and is often expected to respond in some fashion when someone is in need," Connolly added.

The American Heart Association reports that there are approximately 10,000 cardiac arrests that happen annually in the workplace and 88% of all cardiac arrests occur at home making lifesaving skills crucial for everyone and practicing those skills is just as important.

"I have performed CPR many times. The first time, one is so full of adrenalin the experience seems surreal. However in time and with continued practice or use, it becomes second nature and the apprehension or fear to do CPR is gone," Connolly said. "While I have never had CPR alone result in survival, I have had the combination of CPR and AED/Defibrillation, and advanced cardiovascular life support save lives."

Connolly has personally met his patients who have survived a cardiac arrest because CPR was initiated immediately followed by defibrillation/AED being applied early, and a quick response by Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support providers. However, Connolly says if not for the immediate application of CPR, the rest would have likely been moot.

The chances are there will not be a CPR trained Soldier around to help you, but that same CPR training is available to civilians everywhere.

"Your local fire department may have classes, the American Heart Association and the Red Cross offer classes. In each case, one can become certified in CPR in about 4 to 8 hours and recertification is typically around 4 hours," Connolly said.

Take advantage of a CPR class in your area and get certified, maybe one day you will be in a position to save someone's life.