Sudden death spurs workers to study CPR

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2001

When a 40-year-old man suddenly collapses on a basketball court and no one can revive him, it's terrifying.

"It was the sort of thing you're not equipped to deal with," said a coworker who watched the man collapse and die from a heart attack in October. "There were 30 of us there and nobody had any formal cardiopulmonary resuscitation training. We did what we could. He had friends and family members there, too."

The eyewitness, who did not wish to be identified, worked with the man at the state Department of Transportation.

"A lot of people were standing around on the court saying, 'What should we do?' 'What should we do?' We thought it might be a seizure. I've been around those, and we treated it accordingly."

The local office of the Department of Transportation had been considering CPR training for some time, but the shock of the sudden death was the impetus to actually go ahead, said Pat Kemp, a DOT regional preconstruction engineer.

"It was the trigger. Our people in outlying communities who work outside in construction get this training regularly, but we don't," Kemp said.

About 80 DOT employees working in Juneau signed up for November classes in CPR and defibrillator training. Of the 110 employees here, some already had taken training.

"We set up groups of 12 with multiple sessions," Kemp said. The sessions were held at the Red Cross office near Bartlett Regional Hospital. The employees also requested counseling with a grief counselor, Mary Bardone.

And that's not all, Kemp said. "We are committing to making the defibrillator equipment available in our two buildings and also to ongoing training." He expects the cost of the equipment to range from $1,000 to $5,000.

"People took this death pretty hard," Kemp said. "He was here one day and gone the next. And he was too young to go."

The Red Cross offers a 4.5-hour CPR class on request.

"We offer classes in the workplace for any company," said Larry Musarra of the Red Cross.

Classes are limited to 10 at a cost of $40 per person or $45 if defibrillator training is included. Each month at its office, the Red Cross offers half a dozen regular classes, ranging from community first aid to infant CPR.

"It's essential that everybody know how to perform CPR," said Fred Thorsteinson, a DOT employee with previous Red Cross training who serves on the board of directors of the Red Cross.

"You never know when you are going to encounter the need to perform it," Thorsteinson said. "It would be a very bad feeling to have to live with the thought that you could have done something but you didn't know how. When you have children choke and stop breathing, you can bring them back with this."

Employees of Knightwatch Security, members of the Coast Guard and workers at some other local businesses and agencies are regularly trained in the techniques. To arrange for a class, call Musarra at 463-5713.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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