Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute held a CPR and automated external defibrillator class Saturday at USA Raft in Erwin. NOLI is a new learning center in Erwin, focused on outdoor recreation, safety, survival and fun. The “school” will be offering a variety of classes this spring before the prime recreation season begins.
The cold months of rafting season are a perfect time for guides and companies to prepare for the upcoming influx of whitewater thrill seekers. USA Raft is no exception, and at the top of the list of things to do is safety. That means making sure river guides’ CPR and AED certifications are in good standing order.
Jerry Smith, lead wilderness medicine instructor for NOLI, taught the class of nine how to perform quality chest compressions, rescue breathing, Heimlich maneuver and how to administer the AED device. These techniques are vital in a rural setting to saving one’s life, according to Smith. Response time is delayed in these areas due to seclusion. This, of course, is part of the appeal to people looking to leave the hustle of modern life for a weekend.
“You are probably an hour or so from any professional help unless they just happen to be up there at the time,” Smith said. “To have those skills to fall back on you are doing something to help.”
The class was three hours long and consisted of classroom instruction time, demonstrations and practical application on CPR mannequins. The “dummies” were equipped with a click device to signal to the students if their chest compressions were deep enough. Smith instructed the students that when one administers CPR in real-life situation, bones might break.
“The importance of quality chest compressions can mean the difference between saving a life and losing a victim,” Smith said during instruction.
Many of the students at Saturday’s class were whitewater river guides on the Nolichucky River. Chase Price is one such guide and attended the event. He has been a river guide at USA Raft for six years. He has taken CPR classes before and had many things to say about this one.
“This was the best CPR class I have ever had,” Price said. “Everyone seemed to get something out of it, a lot of good feedback from those taking the class. Any questions we had, (Smith) was able to answer them very quickly with distinct answers.”
Price said it is important for him to know this information because it will save a life one day should the need arise. He said that with the rural nature of rafting and outdoor recreation it is important to know what to do and take charge. Smith said that as the guide, people look to him for that leadership during emergencies.
“What I really took away today is the new protocol on chest-compression and rescue breaths,” Price said. “Instead of like a couple years ago it was all chest-compression and that has been changed up.”
During the class, Smith briefed the students on primary and secondary cardiac arrest. Primary cardiac arrest, he explained, is heart failure due to a problem in the heart. Secondary cardiac arrest is heart failure due to a source outside the heart, whether that is a lack of oxygen caused by asphyxiation, brain trauma or even drug use. This led to a brief discussion on Naloxone, also know as Narcan.
Smith suggested that guides take a trip to a local pharmacy that provides the drug, applicator and instruction for free. He said that with the epidemic of opioids, carrying one might save a life when one least expects it. The discussion quickly returned to the primary task at hand though.
After the classroom instruction portion and demonstrations were over, students got the opportunity to practice new learned techniques on the practice “dummies” provided by NOLI. Many were surprised how hard one must compress a patient’s chest to perform quality chest-compressions. The students also practiced creating a mouth-to-mouth barrier with a rubber glove in case they do not have a barrier device.
After the class, Smith and Fisher said they were happy with the success of the day. Smith, an Elizabethton firefighter, said he is always happy when he knows more people within the community are CPR certified. He said once again that one never knows when they may see a person collapse and need aid. The instruction he provided may help preserve a family in the future, whether on the river or at a department store.
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