Woman’s club learns about CPR

Chris Gardner has worked with the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps for 16 years and has seen a lot. Yet, he became emotional as he remembered the events that led to the death of a woman and her friend after a kayaking accident on the storm-flooded Norwalk River.

Mr. Gardner and Jack Majesky, who is the executive director of Wilton CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), spoke at a recent Woman’s Club meeting about the importance of citizens learning CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and recognizing the signs of stroke.

“The woman was pulled from the river by some brave bystanders, and emergency personnel were on the scene in six minutes,” Mr. Majesky recalled. But minutes count when someone is not breathing normally and is unresponsive, regardless of the cause, Mr. Gardner emphasized. Had CPR been administered during these crucial minutes after the victim’s heart stopped, they posited, she might have been saved.

This incident is what propelled these men to start a program to train citizens in CPR and in the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), which sends a jolt of current into the chest to get the heart beating normally again. Training sessions take about 90 minutes and are held roughly once a month at the Wilton Library and elsewhere.

Mr. Gardner demonstrated the basics of CPR with a practice dummy. For an adult who has collapsed and appears not to be breathing, the first step, he said, is to make sure the person is lying flat on her back on the ground and then to tap the shoulders and shout to confirm whether she is OK. If there is no response, the next step is to ask someone else on the scene to call 911 and to get an AED, if one is available.

If you are alone with the victim, Mr. Gardner said, then call 911 with your cell phone set on speaker mode. Next he recommended making sure there is nothing under the person’s head and to begin CPR by pushing down hard and fast with the palms placed on the sternum in the middle of the chest — about 100 times a minute — depressing the chest at least two inches with each push. This action continues until the AED arrives and is employed, medical personnel arrive, or the person starts breathing. Use a partner to take turns with compressions, if possible, he said.

“About 800,000 people suffer from stroke each year in the U.S., and 140,000 of these die,” Mr. Majesky said. A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain stops because of a clot or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. He discussed three key signs to look for when stroke is suspected: facial droop on one side; one arm drifting down, when the person closes their eyes and extends the arms straight out in front; and abnormal speech, or slurring of words. If any one of these signs is present, Mr. Majesky indicated, the probability of stroke is 72% and emergency medical personnel should be called immediately. Norwalk Hospital, he added, has a stroke response center and is well equipped to deal with such emergencies, but recognizing the signs and getting help quickly is the key to saving lives.

For more information on the Wilton Woman’s Club or to register for the club’s upcoming fashion show and luncheon, visit wiltonwomansclub.org.

For CPR training, visit wiltonlibrary.org or wiltonambulance.org.