Confessions of a CPR Instructor

cpr-smallConfession #1: I never wanted to be a CPR instructor. In fact, I tried to avoid even learning CPR. My grandfather was a CPR instructor and would talk to me about getting certified when I was a kid, helping at his concession stand at the public pool he owned. He really wanted me to have these life-saving skills, but I refused to let him teach me (I was eleven at the time- what did I know at eleven?). When I was fourteen, I started working at a daycare center as an assistant and one of the requirements of the job was to be trained in CPR. So along with the rest of the daycare staff, I took a class. The instructor terrified me. He taught with the belief that scare tactics would help his students learn better. I don’t think I retained much of what I learned that day because I was too overwhelmed with his yelling the information at me.

Fast forward about 10 years. I was pregnant with my daughter and working for Head Start. Again it was required by my job to take a CPR class. This time, I went a little more willingly because I figured it’d be good information to have just in case my baby ever choked. The instructor this time didn’t want to be there and it was obvious. She skipped parts of the DVD presentation, didn’t really pay attention to what we were doing, and didn’t seem to really care if we were understanding these life saving skills. I wish I could say it bothered me, but that’s where my next confession comes in.

Confession #2: It didn’t bother me. I was eight months pregnant and glad to get out of the class early.
My daughter was born in September 2006. I didn’t think about the CPR class that I took until one day in April 2007 when she was seven months old and suddenly, right in front of me, choking. Severely choking (as in, lips turning blue, not making any sounds, choking). I’d be lying if I told you that I knew what to do right away. I didn’t. For what felt like a very long time to me, but was probably only a matter of seconds, I couldn’t think straight and started to get emotional. But then something took over, the adrenaline kicked in, and I was somehow able to remember what I learned eight months earlier. Five back slaps, five chest thrusts, five back slaps. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Finally the object was dislodged and my daughter was crying. As soon as she started crying, I started crying. My husband’s version of the story is that I cried all day, every day, for two months. (That’s probably true.)

Just as I started to get over this very traumatic experience, my daughter choked again. This time she was nine months old, sitting in a high chair, eating half of a grape. (Please if you give young children grapes, cut them in ¼, not in ½!)  She started gagging, then the gagging stopped and she was turning pale. This time I reacted quicker and with more confidence. This time it only took four back slaps and the grape was out. My daughter cried just as she did the first time she choked, but this time, I did not. This time I decided that I needed to become a CPR instructor to educate other parents on what to do if they were ever in a similar situation.

I have been teaching CPR for almost six years now and I tell these stories in detail to all of my classes because I want other parents to learn from my experiences to keep their children safe. I can attest that even with prevention and supervision, accidents can happen. I can attest that even when we’re educated, accidents can happen.

Confession #3: My daughter choked again when she was almost four years old. This time, I was already a CPR instructor and I should have known better, but she choked on a balloon. Yes, a balloon (you can read that story here).

I’m writing this now, not to scare you, but to be honest with you, as one parent to another about why this class is important. When you take Infant CPR or Toddler CPR at Isis, you will have the opportunity to practice hands-on life saving skills. Our classes are interactive and combine watching scenarios, talking as a group, and practicing. We do not use scare tactics in our class; but instead teach with a little bit of humor (we believe that if you laugh, you’ll relax; and if you relax, you’ll retain this important information better). Our instructors are all certified by the American Heart Association as BLS instructors and bring with us our experiences as EMT’s, nurses, public health professionals, medical assistants and other specialties. We are a passionate group who care deeply about safety and want to be your trusted guides as you strive to keep your little one safe.

We know it’s not an easy class to sit through. We talk about all of the horrible things no one wants to think about when it comes to your baby or toddler: choking, SIDS, your child needing CPR, your child experiencing a pediatric emergency. But trust me when I say it is traumatic and emotional to see your child choking. It is something you will never forget. I imagine the only thing worse, would be not knowing what to do in that situation.

Teresa Stewart, MS, MPH
Program Manager: Safety, Wellness and Sleep Support

About Teresa Stewart MS MPH

Teresa Stewart is the Program Manager of Sleep Support and Safety at Isis Parenting and has been a proud member of the Isis team since 2007. Teresa holds a MS in Child Development from Wheelock College and an MPH in Maternal and Child Health from Boston University School of Public Health. She is certified by the American Heart Association as a CPR and First Aid instructor. Teresa is a member of the Safe Kids Boston Coalition and MassPinn (Massachusetts Prevents Injuries Now Network). She combines her areas of expertise to help parents understand why our children do the mysterious things they do and how to keep them healthy and safe. Teresa also supports parents around sleep through her work as an Isis Sleep Consultant and co-contributor to Sleep from Birth to One Year, from the Isis Online Parenting School. She recently presented at the Zero to Three’s National Training Institute on the Isis Sleep Support Program. Teresa is the mother of a school-aged daughter and toddler son and understands the joys and challenges of parenting.

2 Responses to Confessions of a CPR Instructor
  1. Marianne Evans
    July 22, 2013 | 5:16 pm

    Teresa, your article touched me deeply and I sincerely appreciate your commitment to childhood safety. Parents need to know that the worst fears can only be addressed with boldness and education. I hate to think about it, but it makes me feel more secure to learn skills to help in an emergency situation. Prevention is a wonderful goal, but the reality is that there is no such thing as risk free living. You do so much to empower us.

  2. Meet Our Atlanta CPR Team! - Isis
    September 20, 2013 | 11:02 am

    [...] am the Program Manager of Safety, Wellness, and Sleep Support. I’ve shared before why I’m a CPR instructor, but I’d like to introduce you to the amazing teams of CPR instructors we have at Isis, in [...]

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