Many of us who learned cardiopulmonary resuscitation years ago may have forgotten what to do.
It's not a good feeling.
My introduction to the lifesaving skill came during U.S. Army basic training in the mid-1980s. In all the years since, I never had to put that training to use in an emergency, thank goodness.
Yet not having a CPR refresher course since my Army days has been in the back of my mind. If I were to encounter someone having a heart attack, it's safe to say I wouldn't remember the proper technique of chest compressions and breathing aid.
So, as someone who should have done more to stay current, I was interested to read news of efforts to promote an alternative to full CPR, the traditional method of alternating hard pushes on a victim's chest with quick breaths into their mouth.
Lately, studies have pointed to another option in compression-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as hands-only CPR, that can be helpful in an emergency.
The hands-only approach, which involves doing chest pushes at a continual rate of 100 per minute without the breaths, emphasizes the chest pumping some experts say is most important in adult cases.
It's not, however, recommended for infants and children in distress.
One local resident who serves as a CPR instructor knows that as well as anyone.
Not long ago, Chad Eisenbise of Holcomb was in the right place at the right time — "just driving along" — when he spotted people involved in a troubling scene. He stopped to find a 10-month-old baby unable to breathe.
Eisenbise administered full CPR, and the youngster eventually recovered.
When you're trained in CPR, Eisenbise said, there's an amazingly rewarding feeling in "just knowing you can help somebody."
Understandably, he's a strong advocate for full CPR training — which would mirror the stand of the American Red Cross.
National Red Cross officials have described the hands-only approach as an alternative for those unwilling, unable or not trained to perform full CPR.
As Carolyn Henry of the Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross said, doing something always is better than doing nothing.
The fear, however, is that too many people might decide they don't need full CPR training if they understand the hands-only approach.
As Henry also noted, why not have the most knowledge and ability possible to help someone on a moment's notice?
After all, such training is easily accessible. The local American Red Cross chapter offers full CPR/First Aid classes the second Saturday of each month.
Those trained in full CPR know it is more involved than the hands-only approach, from remembering to tilt the victim's head back to cleaning out their airway, pinching their nose and covering their mouth completely when breathing.
The goal of full CPR is to do some work of the heart in pushing blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs, and improve the chances of survival until the victim can receive expert medical attention. It's helped save many lives over the years.
Of course, the first step in such an emergency always should be to call 911. Until emergency help arrives, CPR and other tools — specifically, defibrillators — can make a difference.
All schools, sports venues and other places people gather should have readily available automated external defibrillators, easy-to-use devices that send an electrical shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm and reverse cardiac arrest.
The need for CPR training and defibrillators cannot be underestimated.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some 1.1 million heart attacks occur each year in the United States, and about 460,000 are fatal.
Such sobering statistics make a strong case for following the lead of Eisenbise and others who have had the best CPR instruction possible.
The more people who make time to learn full CPR and take refresher courses, the better.
E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at email@example.com.