Some professions automatically come with opportunities to physically save lives. Think doctors, nurses, EMTs. That sacred ability is also inherent in welders, bartenders, factory workers and students. Emergency medical professionals in Sioux Falls are reaching out to everyone, equipping people with the basic tools to save lives.
When soon-to-be sixth grader Nicholas Galvin stops by the mall with his mom, he walks out with a lot more than a few shopping bags.
"She had this machine, and I opened it up and she told me how to use it and it was, like, shock pads that you put on to the person and it shocked him," Galvin says. "And then to hand press, you go like this, and you push down on the chest about two inches."
Galvin is only eleven years old, but he’s just learned two simple strategies that could help him save a life. It happens on a shopping trip when something unique catches his eye.
"I saw these, like, human half-body people, and I was like, what’s going on?" Galvin says.
"Yeah, they put us up on a stage/platform type of thing, and we have about, I think there’s about nine mannequins out there," Kelly Grogan with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue says. "And what we’re hoping is that people will come up and just learn how to do hands-only CPR. Then once they just show us that a little bit and demonstrate, then they learn about the AED, the shocker thing, and we talk to them about the Pulsepoint App. So, it’s pretty simple. You don’t have to do very much, but we’re trying to make an awareness. That’s what you need to do."
Grogan is the EMS coordinator for Sioux Falls Fire Rescue. He outlines the three basic parts of the community education event happening feet from the mall’s food court. Professional life-savers walk passers-by through steps to perform CPR using only their hands.
"They just find an imaginary line in the center of the chest, and then place the hands down and start doing compression-only CPR," Grogan says. "And they would do that until help gets there or, better yet, here comes somebody with that machine that will shock them."
Ryan Turner and his dad are from California. They’re visiting family and friends in Sioux Falls, and they stopped at the Empire Mall.
"I heard it’s the biggest tourist attraction in South Dakota, so that’s why we’re here and stumbled upon this defib class and CPR class," Turner says.
Turner has curly, dark blond hair, and he wears a casual blue button up as he takes CPR instruction from a Sioux Falls firefighter. Before now, he’s not been familiar with the method, but his dad Craig has more experience.
"I work in structural steel, and I work with older people, so you never know when I might have to use it," Craig Turner says.
He sports a baseball cap as he explains past training he could use in emergencies. Lured by a charismatic fire captain and the promise of free t-shirts, the father-son duo walks through both of the life-saving steps. Ryan Turner says he’s not an expert, but he feels more prepared for a crisis.
"I’d probably still be pretty nervous. But it’s pretty simple. If there was a time of need, I could do it," he says.
That’s the goal for Sioux Falls Fire Rescue. Crews are trying to arm people with the ability to help and boost people’s confidence that they’re capable.
Here’s my challenge with this story: I have next to no medical training. Performing chest compressions intimidates me, and let’s not even talk about me running a machine that shocks someone’s heart. But that is exactly why the emergency professionals tell me I’m completing the training.
BULTENA: I’m perpendicular to the person who’s down. I’ve got one hand that I put in the middle, and then I place the other on top.
TRAINER: You can do however you want. Some people like them interlocked. Some people like them cross-ways.
BULTENA: Is there a good way or a bad way?
TRAINER: No. As long as you get the compressions straight down, that’s the key. Straight down on the chest.
After working on the CPR mannequin, I take on the automated external defibrillator. I attached the sticky pads to the mannequin's chest. The machine tells me to clear everyone and push the flashing button. The fire captain trainng me warns me to make sure no one is touching the body, including me. Then I press the button, and the machine tells me the shock is delivered.
Sioux Falls Fire Rescue crew members put it in a way I hadn’t considered before: if I do nothing, the person whose heart has stopped is already dead. My trying can’t do worse than that. Jordan Maxfield understands my hesitation.
"At first, it’s kind of intimidating, because, what if you have to save a life? But it’s really easy steps, and as long as you know the few steps that there is, it’s really easy," Maxfield says.
The Roosevelt High School is certified in CPR because she works at a daycare.
"In middle school, they usually teach you the basics of CPR. You learn different types, you learn how to use the automatic external defibrillators. You learn where they’re at, you learn the different types of CPR and infant CPR. It’s really helpful, I think, to at least know," Maxfield says.
That take-away makes EMS coordinator Kelly Grogan smile.
"When it happens right in front of you, they were just laughing or talking, so they still have oxygenated blood in their system, and you can sustain that person by doing compression-only CPR," Grogan says. "And since American Heart went to that in 2010, more people are surviving."
Grogan and the rest of Sioux Falls Fire Rescue hope their quick trainings equip people with the capability and courage to save lives.
Sioux Falls Fire Rescue also encourages people to download the PulsePoint application on their smartphones. It has elements including a map of more than 500 defibrillator locations throughout Sioux Falls. If you allow it, the app also sends you an alert if someone in a public place near you needs help. It only works in the city, but officials are working to expand the technology.
Crew members with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue are hunkering down at the Empire Mall today through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. They teach people life-savings basics at no cost, and they provide their students with free t-shirts.