The week after I earned my senior lifesaving badge I was helping with
recreational swimming at a 4-H camp. Before I came out of the dressing room,
the other life guard had made a rescue. A boy dived in and bumped heads with a
swimmer passing under the diving board.
Two weeks later I was watching a family playing with a limp inner tube in
chest deep water. The father said, “Watch this!” and he pushed from the
bottom and went head foremost through the hole in the tube. Everyone laughed
because his feet caught and the limp tube twisted around them. I ran to make
my first rescue but the man finally got his feet untangled and came up,
gasping for air. That day I began to read drowning reports and to ask myself,
“What could I have done to prevent that?”
A little girl, visiting her grandparents south of Columbia, became entangled
in a heavy cord with which she was playing. Her grandmother found her hanging
by the rope around her neck. The child was unconscious and her skin had turned
blue because she could not breathe. The woman screamed for help and her
husband called the fire department. She put the little child’s body on the
dining room table, face up, and began to stretch the arms back and forward.
She kept this up until the firemen arrived 10 or 15 minutes later. Apparently
this stretching created a feeble exchange of air because the firemen
successfully revived the child, rushed her to the hospital and she had no
The grandfather’s quick call to and the grandmother’s frantic efforts saved
the child’s life. The dining table treatment is not recommended! Perhaps the
woman had read something about resuscitation?
My very old encyclopedia explains artificial respiration this way: By
compressing the ribs, the chest cavities are diminished forcing foul air out
... Releasing that compression causes the ribs to bound back. That allows the
chest cavities to enlarge and air is sucked in to prevent a vacuum.
When I first took senior lifesaving, in 1933, we were taught to say, “Out
goes the bad air, in comes the good air” to help establish a rhythm of 12
compressions per minute. That’s a simple way to remember what the writer of
that 1886 encyclopedia article advised.
Today is the day to contact American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, the American Heart
Association, YMCA or other agency and enroll in a class to learn artificial
respiration. As I see it, a good choice is to learn all of the Heimlich
maneuvers. “Heimlich I” is designed to dislodge something from the wind
pipe. “Heimlich II ” is appropriate for a person near death from drowning.
It is performed with the victim down on his back with his head to the side so
water can be expelled. Henry Heimlich, a retired chest surgeon, also devised
techniques for reviving infants and others.
How soon must these chest compressions be started? Immediately! Revival
chances are good if artificial breathing is begun within the first three
minutes after natural breathing stops. Chances diminish rapidly after that.
The message is: Get the training at once! And if you don’t, if the body is
blue, do something until trained help arrives. That grandmother saved the life
of a precious child.