By: Chris Quinn, Public Affairs Volunteer
Brandy Hewett trained hard “to protect and serve” as a police officer, but a skill she learned as a teenager helped her to save a life last summer.
She had learned CPR as a swimming pool lifeguard.
When a call came into the Brooklet, Georgia, police station on July 1 about a man in a city park who had possibly choked and passed out, Detective Hewett bolted for her car, followed a minute later by Chief Gary Roberts. By the time Roberts rolled up to the park, he saw Hewett sprinting across a park field to a concrete picnic table where an elderly man was lying on a bench.
The man had not choked but was unconscious.
“I didn’t find a pulse, so I just started chest compressions. My first thought was to keep his heart pumping,” Hewett said. She asked a park employee to lead the elderly man’s wife and grandson away. The last thing she wanted, if this were going to be the family’s last moments together, was the two burning this scene into their memories.
Hewett worked herself into a sweat in the sticky summer air until EMS arrived and medics hooked the man to a machine that took over for her. They took him to a local hospital.
Hewett, a mother of three, stuck around to talk to and distract the grandson from what he had witnessed.
A couple of days later, she was on another call and ran into one of the medics who had been at the scene, and he told Hewett the man was doing well when they got to the hospital.
Roberts said Hewett’s response could have been the difference between life and death.
“I was like, that’s one for the good guys,” Hewett said.
The American Red Cross gave Hewett its Lifesaving Award – one of the highest honors it can bestow on someone who saves or sustains a life using skills learned from a Red Cross course -- in October for rescuing the stranger. But it was not the first time she had used CPR in her seven years as a police officer. She used her CPR skills twice while working earlier for the Savannah police. The Red Cross award was “awesome,” but she said “we don’t do it to be recognized. That’s part of our job. In this line of work, it is not uncommon for us to come into situations like that.”
But it’s not uncommon for anyone to find themselves in a similar situation. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation says 1,000 people suffer from heart stoppages each day in the United States.
About 70% of those happen in homes. Anyone can be a first responder and save a life or increase a victim’s chance of recovery by acting even before the police, fire department, or EMTs arrive. About nine in 10 people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die, but CPR can double or triple the chance of survival when bystanders take action.
As part of its lifesaving mission, the American Red Cross teaches lifesaving skills to more than seven million people each year in businesses, schools and communities.
Its CPR classes are designed to fit into busy schedules, with options available on weekdays and weekends, plus online, instructor-led, and blended learning course formats.
“Anybody can learn it, absolutely, and I encourage everybody to do it. It can save anybody’s life, from a small child to a mother or father. It is something good to have and a skill you won’t lose,” Hewett said. Instruction that teaches the skills and confidence to perform this life-saving procedure when it's needed the most.