By Scott Prater
Anyone who works in the healthcare or fitness related industries has undoubtedly experienced cardio pulmonary resuscitation training as part of their semi-annual certification process, but Patti Eafrati, a former personal trainer at the Schriever Fitness Center, says that CPR training shouldn’t be taken lightly. It could help them save a life.
Eafrati moved away from Colorado Springs two years ago, but credits the CPR training she received here for helping her save a man’s life recently.
On a seemingly typical weekday morning at a Vista, Calif., gym, Eafrati was busy training a client when she heard the words “code blue” announced through the gym-wide intercom. After searching the facility, she found a group of people huddled near an elliptical machine. On instinct, she shuffled through the crowd of onlookers only to find an unconscious man wedged between two machines.
“I could tell he wasn’t breathing,” she said. “His skin was pale and his lips had turned blue. It was a disturbing scene, but it was even more shocking to see everyone just watching. No one was doing anything.”
At that moment, Eafrati’s training took control.
“I had one of my coworkers help me pull the man down to the floor and we began chest compressions,” she said. “This may sound strange, but I kept hearing Seth Cannello’s voice in my head. He was explaining the CPR steps to me. It had been two years since I had experienced the CPR training at Schriever, but in that moment it was still fresh in my mind.”
With the crowd standing over her, Eafrati acted without hesitation. She asked someone to call 911. She then asked her manager to find the facility’s automated external defibrillator. He brought it to the scene a few seconds later and Eafrati opened the box.”
Like many AEDs common to fitness centers, the kit included instructions for use, and once powered up, included voice commands.
“The voice told me to open the package, take out two paddles and affix them to specific places on the patient’s chest,” she said. “Then the AED began to assess the patient’s condition. After a few seconds, the voice recommended me to administer a shock. I told everyone to stand back and pushed the button labeled ‘shock.’ Instantly, his body lifted a few inches off the floor. A few seconds later, he gasped for air.”
Eafrati saw the man struggle to regain his breath and told her coworker to begin chest compressions again. After a minute or so, the patient’s breathing normalized and he tried to sit up.
“We pushed him gently back to the floor and told him to relax,” Eafrati said. “Of course, he didn’t know what was going on so we just tried to calm him down. About that time, emergency medical technicians arrived on scene.”
Eafrati estimated the patient, an elderly gentleman, must have been unconscious and not breathing for at least two minutes.
“We were told he had just jumped off a treadmill and was preparing to get on an elliptical machine when he collapsed,” she said. “Once someone noticed he was not breathing they would have had to run to the main desk on the upper floor of the fitness center. Then someone at the desk would have had to make a determination of the proper steps to take and announce the code blue. I was in another part of the building and it took me time to find the patient, so a lot of time had passed already.”
“We talked to the man’s wife later that day and she told us we probably saved him from suffering brain damage at the very least,” Eafrati said. “I was happy and relieved that we were able help save the man, but I was also surprised at the behavior of my coworkers.”
Eafrati explained that even though the facility had an AED on hand, no one besides her had ever been trained to use it.
“As federal employees working at a military fitness center, we are required to undergo CPR training every two years,” said Cannello, Schriever Sports and Fitness manager. “That training includes the use of AEDs, which can be found at many public facilities nowadays, including fitness centers, shopping malls schools and daycare centers.”
Eafrati said that though many AEDs include instructions and voice commands, they is no replacement for regular CPR training.
“Like the scenario I just explained, many people go into shock when an emergency arises, even if they’ve taken CPR training,” she said. “Luckily for me, I think repeated training helped me react quickly and stay calm.”
While working at the Schriever Fitness Center, Eafrati completed CPR training multiple times and Cannello covered the course material with staff regularly as well.
“It’s gratifying to know that Patti helped save a life because of the training she received here,” Cannello said. “It gives credence to our training efforts, that we’re not CPR training just for the sake of training. We must assume a cardiac emergency is going to happen on any given day. In her case, it did and she showed she was prepared.”
Following her ordeal, her coworkers were amazed at how quickly she acted and followed the correct steps to help save a life. She responded with amazement as well.
“I told them all that it was a shame I was the only staff person who knew what to do,” she said.
At Schriever, the 21st Medical Squadron conducts CPR training for unit Physical Training Leaders every Friday at 8 a.m. at the Health and Wellness Center. The 21 MDS plans to offer CPR classes to all active duty Team Schriever members one day per month in the near future as well. Members can also find local CPR classes offered through the Red Cross. Visit www.redcross.org/CPR-Training for more information.