Saving a life: Residents get CPR, first aid training

Event attendees gather around as the Brownsville Fire Department demonstrates how to perfrom hands-only CPR Saturday at the Save a Life event in the Brownsville Events Center. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The pulsing beat of the Bee Gees’ classic hit “Stayin’ Alive” fills the Brownsville Events Center Saturday morning as Brownsville residents get down to learning how to save a life.

The Save a Life event offered free hands-only CPR and basic first aid skills with group and one-on-one demonstrations by paramedics from the Brownsville Fire Department and medical professionals from Valley Baptist Medical Center Brownsville.

While the Brownsville Fire Department does offer CPR certification courses a few times a year, this event actually came about outside of those opportunities through the work of local attorney Javier Villarreal.

In July, Villarreal had to perform CPR on his son when he almost drowned and went into cardiac arrest. While his son is fine now, Villarreal knows that’s because he had the knowledge and the training to step in quickly to save his son.

Valley Baptist Medical Center Brownsville registered nurse Maira Guzamn demonstrates how to perform CPR compressions for Remedios Villarreal Saturday at the Save a Life event in the Brownsville Events Center. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“Many times when people have a heart attack or suffer a drowning, the people that are there don’t know what to do. If they’d only known CPR they could have saved their life,” he said.

After talking with Jose Ayala, Valley Baptist Medical Center Brownsville’s Chief Medical Officer, Villarreal decided to use his experience to provide an opportunity to pass on life saving skills to the public by partnering with the fire department and the hospital to create an event.

However, the benefits of the event don’t just extend to the person in danger, it also helps the fire department’s paramedics and hospital staff when CPR and first aid can be implemented early.

According to Brownsville Fire Department Chief Jarrett Sheldon, studies have shown that early implementation of CPR can double the survival rate of patients in cardiac arrest.

Sophia Obregon and Emily Gonzalez wrap bandages around Monserrath Flores’ outstretched arms as they practice minimizing bleeding Saturday at the Save a Life event in the Brownsville Events Center. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

While ambulances and medical staff try to get to people in need as quickly as they can, even a wait of a few minutes can have dire consequences when it involves our circulatory system and the brain.

“It makes a whole life of difference if someone can start circulation to the brain right away,” Jose Ayala said.

“Remember while we’re thinking ‘we’re going to be at the hospital in five minutes’, five minutes without oxygen to your brain makes a big difference.”

For 64-year-old grandfather Ernesto Infante, being able to step into action immediately if his two grandchildren do need help, is his primary motivator as he works one-on-one with firefighter paramedic Erick Hernandez to practice hands-only CPR and the heimlich on an infant CPR model.

A retired member of the U.S. Army, Infante received first aid training during his time in the service, but wanted to get a refresher. Remembering the crisis that often came with raising his own children, he wants to be sure of his skills if something does happen to his family.

“I think I feel pretty confident, and if I see somebody in trouble I’m going to try my best to make sure that person survives,” he said.