If it wasn’t for Bart Fouche I wouldn’t be alive!
As the understudy in Camelot, I was called upon to take over the role of Guinevere without a dress or a technical rehearsal. Whilst on stage disaster struck and I fell eighteen metres down an unguarded lift shaft into the bowels of the State Theatre, Pretoria. Bart Fouche, playing one of the knights, saw my body flash past him. He is a fast thinker and somehow he made his way off the set and climbed down to me. I was lying in a crumpled heap. He saw instantly that I wasn’t breathing so gave me mouth to mouth resuscitation. I coughed up blood. He then began doing CPR and remained there doing it for ten minutes until help finally arrived. I am so grateful that Bart knew how to resuscitate me.
Without him, I would be pushing up daisies!
Last week I was asked if I would be interested in doing a CPR course by Dewald Hattingh. I didn’t have the first clue what CPR was. “Sorry, Dewald, a CP what?”
“CPR. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, it used to be called Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation. I think you’ll find it interesting and of course as a result you might one day be in a position to save a life!”
I pictured myself giving mouth to mouth resuscitation and I remembered Bart. If I am honest, I also thought, well, I might get to kiss someone other than Perdita, my dog! So the date was set.
In Dewald’s training facility there was a mannequin lying on the floor: a person’s body from the chest up. It had a head that tilted on the neck and a chest that I soon learnt I was about to become very familiar with.
“In actual fact, we don’t actually give mouth to mouth to adults. They have enough oxygen in their blood stream. We give CPR. Let me show you how it’s done.”
Dewald knelt down beside the mannequin. “CPR is the act of pushing hard and fast on the chest. It is given to someone whose heart has stopped pumping blood. Just push on the chest, like this, and you pump blood to the brain and heart.”
He placed the heel of one hand on the lower half of the breastbone. The heel of his other hand on top of this. He then pushed straight down, let the chest come back up to it’s normal position and the repeated the gesture. After a while he said: “You work on the other mannequin. Do what I am doing. Press down hard. Remember, you can’t hurt someone who is already dead!”
I got my hands in the right place and began mimicking Dewald. I was initially a little hesitant but soon I was well into the swing of things. It proved to be quite exhausting!
“Okay, you can do the movement perfectly. Now, just imagine if I dropped to the ground with a heart attack.”
“Not a good thought.”
“The first thing you would do,” said Dewald ignoring my comment, “is to recognise the emergency and get someone to phone for help. You would make sure that I’m lying on my back on a firm, flat surface. Then you move my clothes out of the way and begin the CPR movement. At least one hundred pushes a minute.”
“Right,” I said pumping away again on my mannequin.
“Sometimes the heart doesn’t work and needs a shock to get it going again. This is when an AED, an Automatic External Defibrillator machine is used. The AED is a machine that will figure out if a person needs a shock to get their heart moving again. It’s easy to use. You simply press the ON button and it then tells you everything you need to do.”
He showed me how the AED worked. I pressed the ON button and it then told me to take out two pads with wires attached. It instructed me where to fix them on to the chest. I then pressed a button and it determined if a shock was needed. It was, so I followed the advice and gave an electric shock to jolt the heart back into action. It was all very simple.
The problem would come, I thought, in remembering what that damned AED box is called! I can just imagine me in such a situation. I am terrible with remembering names. Often I will say something like: ” What is that woman’s name that works in Lauren’s Restaurant? You know that woman with a lovely smile. Her name begins with an S. Susan, Sally, Samantha….damn it, what is it?”
“You mean, Lauren?”
“No, I’m talking about Lauren’s assistant. Come on, it begins with an S. Sharon, Sylvia, Sarah….”
“Lauren’s assistant is called Nelly!”
“That’s it – Nelly! Well, maybe it began with an N.”
Can you imagine me in that incredibly tense situation, kneeling over a person who has just had a heart attack, administering CPR and realising that I need AED “Could someone bring me the nearest AST? No, no, I mean AET…um, I mean, ADU….Oh, frigging hell, I want that red box that’s got a three lettered name. ASE! Yes, I’m sure that’s it. Or is it? Bring me the nearest Shock Box!”
Seriously though, those AED’s, (Shock Boxes!) are wonderful little machines. I think that there should be one on every bus and at every golf club, in fact everywhere that large crowds congregate. They are life savers!
Having completed that CPR course, I will now not stand around helplessly if someone has a heart attack. In spite of my spasticity I am a great CPR giver and wonderful user of the ASE, I mean ACD…ASD…well, you know what I mean!
Anyone living in George, SA interested in a CPR course can contact Dewald Hattingh by pressing here!