A class that aims to save lives

Terry Shanks, nurse aide program coordinator, poses with the CPR mannequin used at Valley Health's CPR Anytime classes. Max Lee/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Terry Shanks, nurse aide program coordinator for Warren Memorial Hospital, was in a conference room at the basement of Warren Memorial Hospital with two of her students, waiting for people from the community to show up.

This week is National CPR week and, in honor of that week, nurse practitioners from Valley Health hospitals, like Shanks, are teaching local residents the basics about CPR at free CPR Anytime classes.

The goal, Shanks said, was to give people some exposure about potentially life-saving techniques.

“A little bit of knowledge is better than none,” Shanks said.

Many people are unprepared about how to respond if they see someone who has gone into cardiac arrest, according to Shanks and Penny Whitacre, nurse aide educator at Warren Memorial Hospital.

“People are afraid,” Whitacre said, when they see someone has had a heart attack. “And that’s what I’ve seen in the emergency room is, ‘Well, I didn’t know what to do.'”

Whitacre said that failing to respond to a heart attack can be damaging to a person’s health. Just four minutes after a person’s blood has stopped circulating, his or her brain becomes damaged.

“People come in and they do nothing because they didn’t know how to do anything. And then there’s a lot of guilt and sadness,” she added.

By providing citizens with a 30-minute classes, Whitacre hopes they can be able to perform CPR on someone if they see someone has had a heart attack.

“Anything we can do to improve our health and to improve the health of those we care for,” Whitacre said.

The free CPR classes can potentially serve another purpose: getting people to take longer, paid courses on CPR and other life-saving techniques like the Heimlich maneuver.

Over the course of the year, between 70 and 80 people take these paid courses at Valley Health, Shanks said. She noted that number becomes larger when students who take the classes in order to become nurses are counted.

“We probably do well over 100 people that are new,” including students, Shanks said. “But that’s still not enough.”