How to perform CPR and potentially save a life

Do you know what to do if someone stops breathing?

Only about 40% of people who go into cardiac arrest get bystander CPR if they’re not in a hospital.

“That means 60% of people are not getting compressions right away, and that is the single most effective step in trying to save someone’s life,” said Kelsey Stanton, medical director of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Department in Cecil Township.

She is our expert in training you on what to do.

“If there’s any concern that this person is not breathing effectively or they’re not responsive, we tell everyone start CPR,” said Stanton.

She wants you to call 911 first, then get started on CPR.

Stanton trains fellow firefighters in Washington County and community members.

“The most important thing is to make sure they’re on a hard and flat surface,” she told us while demonstrating on a mannequin.

Stanton’s training came into play in December as she was one of several people to save Carolyn Gesselberty after she went into cardiac arrest at home.

“I’m sitting here because CPR saved my life,” said the Cecil Township woman.

Gesselberty’s daughter, Victoria, was with her when she went into cardiac arrest, and she was one of the first to give her CPR. Victoria has been trained in it since she was 12 years old, but this was the first time she had to use it.

“You’re worried, ‘Am I doing this properly?’ and a lot of thoughts are just running through your mind,” said Victoria.

“You just want to be hard and fast and deep, and allow the chest to come up all the way,” Kelsey showed us.

Thinking of the tunes “Staying Alive” and “Baby Shark” can keep you on pace. Burnout can start setting in around two minutes, so that’s why Kelsey recommends switching out with someone at that point.

Victoria had her sister to do that with until Kelsey and Ron Stanton showed up minutes after 911 sent out a page about the incident. The firefighters just happened to be one minute away from Carolyn’s house that December day.

“Without the bystander CPR, there very possibly might not have been anything to do when we got there. It could have been too late,” said Stanton, assistant chief of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Department.

“Every second, and every minute counts,” Theresa Civitella, an EMT for Southbridge EMS, told us. She was part of the team that helped Gesselberty, driving her to the hospital once her heart was beating again.

But that took some time. Carolyn’s heart stopped several times while crews were working on her, once for six minutes.

“When they took me to AGH, they told my family there was a 10% chance I would live,” said Gesselberty.

But the CPR that her family started — and firefighters and EMS team continued — kept her alive.

“We’d be lost without my mother. She holds us together,” said Victoria.

Gesselberty recently met with all the first responders who helped her, to thank them for saving her life.

“I can’t thank her enough,” Gesselberty said of Stanton.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Stanton replied.

Many community organizations offer CPR training. For more information, call the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Department at 724-941-2354.

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