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Easy steps for first-aid training

March 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If a person collapsed in front of you in a spin class, would you know what to do?

The fire department was awarding two Santa Monica gym employees for their heroic efforts when the man they saved walked right into the room.

He may look too good to be a man raised from the dead. But that's what happened to 59-year-old Gary Gonzales.

On February 20, he was in a spin class at the Spectrum Athletic Club in Santa Monica.

He stood up, clutched the mirror and fell to the ground: Gary's heart seized and stopped.

Employees rushed to his rescue.

"I just jumped off my bike and got him to the floor, assessed what was going on, and he had gone unconscious," said Tracy Smith.

"It was pretty crazy, to see a member to actually collapse, unresponsive to the CPR," said Amaud Mitchell.

Within seconds, Amaud Mitchell and Tracy Smith applied CPR and brought in the club's automated external defibrillator (AED). Firefighters say that is what brought Gary back.

"So I was extremely fortunate that it happened here, and that they had the AED," said Gary.

"CPR just keeps blood moving to the brain and other vital organs," said Santa Monica Fire Capt. Jeff Bridges. "The difference between CPR and using a device like they did here is that device is the definitive treatment."

AEDs are programmed not to give a shock if a person is not having a heart attack. It's very simple to use. It talks to you and walks you through each step. But firefighters agree a little bit of training inspires confidence.

"People are going to be much more encouraged to use the device, and use it properly, if they've been trained and practiced in real-life situations," said Bridges.

The fire department awarded Amaud and Tracy for their quick action.

Santa Monica houses AEDs in all city buildings. New research suggests placing devices in all public places would save many more lives.

"It could have happened any time, any place," said Gary. "If it would have happened at home, in my car, in an elevator, I wouldn't be here."

Gary wants to see more AEDs made available so that more people can survive like him.

You can learn to do CPR and use an AED simply by watching a short video, but like Capt. Bridges said: "Training inspires confidence."

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