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Saving lives with CPR

Red Wing resident Brittany Kuyath performed CPR on a man at the YMCA in April after noticing he had collapsed. "I'm glad I was able to help and not just stand by," Kuyath said.

Two months ago, Brittany Kuyath was in the middle of a regular workout running on the track at the Red Wing Family YMCA when she saw a man collapse on the gym floor beneath her.

Although she said the situation was scary in retrospect, there was no question in her mind as to what she should do.

"I just thought right away to go help. In the moment, you just kind of do it," the Red Wing resident said.

She and a friend ran down to the floor and immediately got to work. While YMCA staff came and set up an automated external defibrillator, Kuyath did chest compressions on the man and her friend helped count throughout the CPR.

Kuyath learned how to perform CPR 10 years ago when she had to become certified to work at an area day care.

It was because of her training in CPR -- and decision to make use of the training -- that the man survived what could have been a much more unfortunate event.

"I don't think he knew how serious the situation was," Kuyath said.

Although she was initially certified in CPR to help children at her workplace, the qualification was put to use in a very different setting. That's why CPR training is made available to any community member that wants to learn it.

"I would encourage anybody to take a class," YMCA child care coordinator Jessica Wheeler said.

Wheeler teaches a variety of CPR courses at the Red Wing Family YMCA, including those that focus on rescuing infants, children and adults. There are also more advanced courses for professional rescuers.

With each course featuring video work, hands-on activities, reading and a final task, Wheeler said it can typically take about four hours to complete CPR certification.

"It just kind of depends on what course you want," she added.

CPR certification has to be renewed every two years, but if people want to take classes more frequently to keep their memory fresh on the process, they certainly can.

"Many people find that they forget after a year," Wheeler said. "Most people want to feel prepared so some people do take the course more often."

Cardiac emergencies can happen at any time, and having the knowledge of CPR may keep people from feeling helpless if sudden cardiac arrest occurs while they're around.

The American Heart Association reports that nearly 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests happen annually. They occur when the heart stops beating as a result of rapid or chaotic electrical impulses.

Effective CPR from a bystander can double or triple a victim's chance of survival, the AHA said, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims receive assistance from bystanders because fear often prevents them from helping.

"The big thing that we tell people is to just do something, even if you can't remember how many compressions or how many breaths," Wheeler said.

To make CPR successful, Wheeler said it's essential to monitor a victim's ABC's -- airway, breathing and circulation. But most importantly, call professionals immediately.

"Just by calling 911 you've already made a big difference," she added.

For Kuyath, aiding the man in the YMCA incident was instinctive. She said she was appreciative that she had the skills necessary to assist someone in need.

"I'm glad I was able to help and not just stand by."