Firefighters deliver life-saving lessons in St. Francis

Contributing Writer

“Don’t wait for help. Be the help.”

Responding to an automated voice warning them to “stand clear” St. Francis Middle School students Abbey Chock, McKenna Littlewolf, Avery Benson, Isabella Fiebranz and Sirajah Moeller and their classmates follow East Bethel firefighter EMT Chad Fish’s lead as they learn to use an AED. Photo by Sue Austreng
Responding to an automated voice warning them to “stand clear” St. Francis Middle School students Abbey Chock, McKenna Littlewolf, Avery Benson, Isabella Fiebranz and Sirajah Moeller and their classmates follow East Bethel firefighter EMT Chad Fish’s lead as they learn to use an AED. Photo by Sue Austreng

Since December 2014 East Bethel Fire Department firefighter Troy Lachinski and his Heart Safe East Bethel crew have been training and equipping people to provide life-saving help for those suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.

“We’ve trained all the city staff and council members, city attorney, parks and road commissions, hockey association, NACE food shelf, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, East Bethel royalty, businesses. … We’ve trained a lot of people – really, how do you argue when someone says they want to teach you how to save a life?” said Lachinski, who is heading up an effort to achieve the American Heart Association’s Heart Safe designation for the city of East Bethel.

Training for all seventh-grade students and staff at St. Francis Middle School took place Oct. 28 when Lachinski, Fire Chief Mark DuCharme and firefighters Doug Doebbert, Michael Howe and Chad Fish delivered hands-on lessons on administering compression-only CPR and the proper use of an AED.

Special guest Tim Hoffman, a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest, also helped in teaching the lessons.

“I want as many people to learn this as possible because, thanks to bystander CPR, I am alive today,” Hoffman said, describing the Oct. 3, 2013, incident in which his heart stopped beating and a fellow employee at McCarthy Auto World, Coon Rapids, administered CPR, used an AED and saved his life.

“I was a perfectly healthy guy. It’s not just the old guy smoking, eating bacon, who has sudden cardiac arrest. It could be anyone. It could be one of you someday,” Hoffman said to seventh-graders assembled for their lesson at St. Francis Middle School.

Lachinski told the students that cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for students on school property.

Calling students in grades seven through 12 grade an ideal target group for the life saving lessons, Chief DuCharme said: “These kids are the most likely to see a situation like this because they are out and around so much. This will help them be ready to do something.”

Before hands-on training began, Lachinski showed students videos of actual sudden cardiac arrest episodes – Hoffman’s included – and the life-saving compression-only CPR and use of AED units that saved lives.

He then told the students and staff that compression-only CPR “keeps the blood flowing, gets oxygen to the brain” and preserves life while an AED unit is brought to the scene, 911 is called and emergency responders arrive.

“If bystander CPR is done in the first two minutes following a collapse from sudden cardiac arrest, there is an 85 percent survival rate,” Lachinski said.

One of the keys to the Heart Safe program is to demonstrate what to do to save a life, Lachinski said.

And so, Hoffman, Lachinski and the other firefighters each worked with a group of students, talking them through and showing them how to do compression-only CPR and how to properly use an AED.

“This is not as gross as I thought. I can really do this, no problem,” said Isabella Fiebranz after doing multiple compressions under the direction of East Bethel firefighter and EMT Chad Fish.

“I am certain that the training provided has given at least some of the students the confidence to act in the face of a sudden cardiac arrest,” Lachinski said following the Oct. 28 training sessions at St. Francis Middle School.

A city achieves the “Heart Safe” designation by performing public education and awareness and completing AED implementation. That implementation consists of working with local businesses, churches and other public areas to install AEDs and then tracking existing AEDs, registering them and verifying their working condition.

“We’re on our way toward getting the Heart Safe designation,” Lachinski said, adding that he hopes to provide the compression-only CPR and AED training at St. Francis High School in the near future.

“There is a Minnesota law in place that all high school graduates will receive hands on training for CPR/AED at least once, and we are in the process of gearing up to provide it at the high school,” Lachinski said.

To learn more about the American Heart Association’s Heart Safe designation, visit HeartSafe-Community.org.

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