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Editorial: Be at your best, prepare for the worst

Becca Thomas, who received her life-guard training certification from the Hudson YMCA, was actually the first swim club member to swim over and pull out the floating, lifeless body of Marissa Metzler from the River Falls High School pool during the end of practice Friday night, Sept. 21. Becca, 15, is home schooled and lives in Roberts

Last week the lead story on the front page of the River Falls Journal was about how several young swim club members, their coach and a swimmer's mother rescued the life of a 12-year-old girl, Marissa Metzler, a fellow swimmer.

Events from the evening of Sept. 21 could just as easily taken another turn -- for the worse. In that case, last week's front-page story would've been about the horrifying heart attack death of a 12-year-old swim club member in the high school pool.

Instead, the lifesaving news that you read about had these human traits -- speed, bravery, composure and cooperation. But the key, and what turned out to be the difference between life and death, was skill and knowledge.

Those rescuers -- three of them were only ages 14 and 15 -- had recent CPR training. This means knowing emergency procedures to restore normal breathing and blood circulation during cardiac arrest -- mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, chest compressions and operating an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The latter is a portable, battery-operated device that analyzes a victim's condition and delivers electric currents to restart the heart.

As the lifesaving incident at the high school pool shows, almost anyone can and maybe should be trained in CPR. Most of us will never use it. One teenage rescuer whose mother had signed him up for a local CPR class in August thought it was "pointless." Needless to say, he's changed his opinion.

The River Falls Area Hospital's Wellness Center and River Falls (Ambulance) EMS sponsor ongoing Heartsaver/AED classes. These are taught by local paramedics. If interested, call Wellness Center Coordinator Helen Leemkuil at 715-307-6060.

The Heartsaver classes have different levels -- one offers CPR training for the average person. It's four hours in the evening, costs $35 and is held at the local Ambulance building, 175 E. Cedar St. If you just need a refresher, the same class is shorter and costs $20. The next one is Thursday, Oct. 18, so you'll want to call right away to enroll.

There are two other Heartsaver classes. One includes first-aid techniques and is suitable for childcare providers and Scout leaders. Another Heartsaver class is aimed at healthcare professionals. The Wellness Center's Leemkuil says "group rates" are also offered for businesses or organizations that want to have CPR training brought to their sites.

All of this is about preparing for something we hope we'll never have to use. Those who've trained and used their skills, especially those from the River Falls Swim Club, are happy that they did. But none could be happier and more alive than survivor Marissa Metzler.

Online Poll: Could you save a life?

The Journal's online poll question asked: A girl in the River Falls High School pool who suffered a heart attack was saved by people who had CPR training. Have you taken a CPR class?

Early results show: YES, and everyone should, 75%; NOT YET, but planning to someday, 25%; and NO, really doubt I'll ever need to use it, 0%.

To vote in the poll, go to River Falls Journal