I can save your life!Aug 30, 2022 02:56PM ● By Jan Weeks
Former emergency medical professionals Fidel Garcia, left, and Rudy Malesich, right, started the PULSE program to train local high school students in CPR, so that in the event of cardiac arrest, they might just save your life. Photo by Cloie Sandlin.
Rudy Malesich remembers well the times when he, as an EMT, responded to victims of heart attacks, only to find no one was performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) because they didn’t know how or were afraid to do it. Unfortunately, by the time the paramedics arrived, even CPR couldn’t save 85 percent of those victims.
“There were always kids present, standing around with adults, unsure of what they could do to help,” said Malesich, 70.
Later, as coroner in another Colorado county, Malesich said he dealt with the aftermath of these unfortunate but preventable circumstances.
“While speaking to families, I often heard, ‘I wish that I would have known what to do to help him or her,’” said Malesich
While he was principal at Fruita Middle School, Malesich and Fidel Garcia, a certified paramedic and former helicopter medic, began a small-scale program partnering with Emergency Medical Services to train and certify students in CPR.
PULSE, an acronym for Preventing Unnecessary Life-loss through Student Education, teaches kids how to perform CPR correctly. Graduates of the program are given T-shirts emblazoned with the words, “I can save your life!”
Malesich insisted that Garcia was the one who was motivated to create the program. The two men met in Leadville in 1979, where Malesich was an EMT and Garcia was a paramedic. When Malesich moved to the Grand Valley, Garcia soon followed and served a stint as the helicopter medic on St. Mary’s Flight for Life.
Since Malesich and Garcia instituted the PULSE program in local schools in 2010, over 6,000 students have been trained.
“They absolutely love it! The training goes quickly so they have to pay attention,” said Garcia, 61.
The 90-minute session is intense, with no breaks. Garcia said students only have that time to build muscle memory, doing anywhere from 2,000-3,000 compressions throughout the course.
“Our classes aren’t about sitting and talking. Students are on the mannequin practicing,” said Garcia.
If they can do it automatically, the chance of someone surviving greatly increases.
Central High School Health & Fitness Instructor Maddie Hathaway coordinates one session of PULSE every quarter.
“About 100 kids per quarter get certified in both adult and child CPR and triage,” said Hathaway. “It also helps them find jobs babysitting.”
People may be reluctant to give CPR because they don’t want to perform mouth-to-mouth breathing, which Garcia explained isn’t necessary anymore. Performing chest compressions will do fine.
The students learn both CPR using mannequins and learn to use an AED (automated external defibrillator). The machines are ubiquitous, perched on walls in schools, hospitals and businesses. When the device is powered up, it talks users through the process, so no one needs to be reluctant to use one on a person in cardiac arrest.
Students Aedan Brannon, 18, and Madi Williams, 17, both took the class last year.
“It was a good thing to know. I feel more competent to handle an emergency,” said Brannon.
As a lifeguard, Williams found it very valuable.
“Getting lots of practice was good,” she said. “The hardest thing was to keep in a steady rhythm,” she added, as it’s tempting to slow down as one tires.
In order to keep the rhythm, Garcia tells students to sing the chorus to the disco song, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.
Garcia said the first thing to do if someone goes down, is to try to evince a response by shaking, shouting or otherwise trying to get an answer. If there is no response, then call 911.
If no AED is available, start CPR. If there are others around, shout, “Call 911!” and begin the process. Once you start CPR, you must continue until help arrives or you reach exhaustion.
“For every minute a person’s in cardiac arrest without CPR, it increases the chance of death 10 percent,” Garcia explained. “And the reality is that for any EMS agency, its best response time is going to be 5-7 minutes. If no one is getting CPR, they have very little chance of survival.”
He also noted that resuscitating a person is the most rewarding outcome because of the impact it makes, not only on the victim but also on family and friends.
THE BIG PICTURE
Because of its impact on students, seniors and families, Malesich and Garcia believe strongly that CPR training should be required in all high schools throughout Colorado.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest survival is higher in states that require CPR in high schools. Currently, there are 39 states that require students to be trained in CPR, but Colorado isn’t one of them. Malesich is actively working to change that by appealing to senators and members of congress in hopes of passing relevant legislation.
“As a retired educator with 38 years’ experience in public and higher education, I learned that we can never underestimate the capabilities of our young people,” said Malesich. “If we want to make substantive change, that is where we start.”
Garcia also hopes the legislation will also include “Stop the Bleed” instruction, which would teach students how to control traumatic bleeding.
“I don’t give up easily,” said Malesich. “This time and effort would enable thousands of high school students to perform the ultimate community service—that of saving a life.”
CPR Training for Adults
Adults can also take advantage of CPR training. The cost is $75 for a class which includes CPR and first aid. For more information, contact Garcia at Professional EMS Education, 970-210-0466 or [email protected] Emergency Medical Technician classes are also available for those who want to move beyond basic first aid.
Change Starts with YouIf you believe CPR training should be taught to Colorado high school students, contact local legislators, or reach out to Malesich at [email protected] or 970-260-6763.
To donate to the PULSE program, contact Garcia at [email protected] or call 970-210-0466
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