If you’re a parent, chances are the images of Pamela Rauseo giving CPR to her five-month-old nephew, Sebastian de la Cruz, on the side of a Miami, Fla., highway last week sent shivers down your spine.
The story went viral on social media channels last Thursday and has been covered by almost every major news outlet since.
If you’re not familiar with this story, here’s a quick recap: While strapped into his car seat, five-month-old Sebastian stopped breathing while riding in his Aunt Pamela’s car on a busy Miami highway last Thursday.
He abruptly stopped crying, and Pamela instinctively knew something was wrong because he had been experiencing breathing problems since January and usually cried while riding in the car.
She pulled the car over and discovered that he wasn’t breathing and was unconscious. She began asking fellow motorists for help. When she couldn’t find anyone who knew CPR, she attempted it herself.
Thankfully, Pamela had been trained in CPR several years ago but she wasn’t sure if she could remember what to do. Thankfully, she did and it worked. You can read the full story here.
But what if one of your children stopped breathing? Would you know what to do?
As the mother of two boys, a six-year-old and a three-month-old, and as a survivor of a choking incident when I was nine (thanks to my fourth-grade teacher who knew the Heimlich maneuver), I am terrified of scenarios like the one in Florida last Thursday.
But because I took the infant and child CPR class offered at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas last fall, I feel confident that I could respond if the unthinkable should happen to one of my children instead of being helplessly paralyzed by fear.
After seeing Sebastian’s story, I contacted Vanessa Kelly, an American Heart Association CPR instructor at Baylor Dallas. She offered some helpful tips for those of us who are trained in CPR and those who are not.
1. Get trained in CPR.
Find a class in your area. It only takes a few hours to learn the proper techniques.
In an infant and child CPR class, you will learn how to respond to an infant, a small child and an adult; the techniques are very different for each age group so it’s important to learn the differences for each one.
Most CPR classes will also teach you how to use a defibrillator, a life-saving electrical device that provides an electric current to shock and stop the heart so that it can rhythmically beat again. Defibrillators can usually be found in most public venues.
In the CPR class I attended, we learned that when in public, one of the first things you should do when someone is in distress is to designate one person to call 911 and another person to look for the defibrillator while you begin CPR.
If you are by yourself, immediately begin CPR if your phone is not near you.
2. Even if you don’t do it exactly right, CPR can still work.
Those who are trained in CPR probably noticed some flaws in Pamela Rauseo’s technique just by looking at the pictures.
However, her story is a great example of how the basics of CPR can be lifesaving, even if the technique isn’t exactly correct. In her case, she was able to successfully resuscitate her nephew.
“In an emergency, no one is going to criticize you for your technique,” says Kelly.
“One of the biggest concerns people have about giving CPR is that they will do it incorrectly and accidentally hurt the person they are trying to help. A common complication of CPR can be cracked ribs, but the alternative is that the person may die if you don’t at least try so it’s a risk you have to take. Let the medical professionals worry about any resulting injuries. Your job is to restore oxygen flow as soon as possible.”
According to Kelly, if an infant stops breathing, it is likely due to a respiratory issue they had since birth or some sort of respiratory illness like RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), for example.
In other cases, a child’s airway could be blocked by a foreign object. If that occurs, the Heimlich maneuver is necessary which is also taught in a CPR class.
“The purpose of CPR is to breathe for the person who is in distress and get blood flowing from the heart to the brain, that is your number one concern and the most important thing to keep in mind,” explains Kelly.
3. Doing nothing is not an option.
Take some sort of action. No matter what, respond. Even if it’s asking someone else for help or calling 911.
In fact, calling 911 is essential even if you know how to perform CPR.
It’s critical to have the person in distress evaluated and examined by medical professionals as soon as possible even if you get them to start breathing again.
If you don’t know CPR or the Heimlich maneuver, the American Heart Association (AHA) now has a “Pocket First Aid & CPR” app that can give you more information. There is also the Hands-Only CPR technique taught by the AHA that can also be effective.
According to the latest reports, little Sebastian de la Cruz is in a critical care unit at a Miami hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. If it wasn’t for his Aunt Pamela’s quick response, this story could have had a heartbreaking end.
To find CPR training in your area, visit the classes and events section on BSWHealth.com .