Retired CPR instructor’s speedy response gives neighbour second chance at life

By Eliska Podsednik, communications specialist - Indigenous relations

Heather sitting with a young toddler on her lap and two dogs sitting beside themEnjoying the gentle busyness retirement has to offer, Heather Dewar, former CPR instructor of more than 25 years, went about her day like any other.

Then, when her neighbour collapsed, Heather’s years of experience told her exactly what she needed to do next. Quick to the scene, she immediately aided the family and took swift, calm control of the situation.

Having provided first aid training for many members of her community in Hope, B.C., Heather firmly believes first aid training can save lives. For her, the ability to administer first aid gives another person a second chance at life – and without a solid understanding of first aid, many fail to get that second chance.

Over the course of her instructional career, Heather can recall numerous course participants who progressed through their CPR training course with mixed emotions. For some, acquiring the skills to carry out CPR correctly and confidently came too late, following the tragic death of a friend of family member.

The sentiment often shared by these individuals was that, had they been equipped with lifesaving first aid skills earlier in life, they may have been able to prevent a loved one’s untimely death.

Cardiac events can happen unexpectedly, at any time, with many of these events occurring outside of a hospital. When CPR is performed immediately following a heart attack, this simple but important task can significantly increase the odds that the person will survive.

In fact, the chance of survival after a cardiac arrest can be doubled if effective CPR is delivered immediately and with a defibrillator (AED). Heather’s early response was crucial in saving her neighbour’s life that day.

With the aid of her neighbour’s family, she performed CPR for nearly 25 minutes until the ambulance arrived. The early, sustained CPR Heather provided ensured that her neighbour received continual blood flow to her brain – an intervention that prevented both brain damage and death.

Today, with her neighbour making a steady recovery with no lasting consequences, Heather is thankful for both her first aid skills and being in the right place at the right time. Although she is no longer a first aid instructor, she recommends everyone take it upon themselves to learn first aid because one day, they may be in the same position to help give someone that second chance at life.

Need first aid training?

Being able to recognize an emergency and knowing how to respond may save some one’s life. With many communities easing COVID-19 restrictions, in-person first aid course instruction has resumed in some places, while others offer blended or online learning options.

Find a course near you, and download the free Canadian Red Cross First Aid app on Apple and Android mobile devices for instant access to videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice to help maintain your life-saving skills and respond when needed.
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