Alicia Phillips had just left work for lunch when she came upon a life-and-death situation.
As she looked at another motorist on Columbia Road Dec. 14, she saw the man grab his chest, slump over his steering wheel and pass out. His wife took the wheel and pulled the car over. That's when Phillips heard the voice.
"All I heard was him - what Greg had told me, right down to the number of compressions," she said, referring to Greg Brooks, whose class in cardiopulmonary resuscitation she had taken only months before.
Phillips called 911 and began performing CPR on the driver - Bill Rutledge of Martinez. She as able to keep Rutledge's heart going until paramedics could arrive. As a result, Rutledge survived a heart attack, and he now enjoys playing golf on the weekends and exercising three times a week.
"It meant a lot to me," he said recently. "She brought me back. And I'm lucky to be here today. The good Lord was looking out for me, I guess. She was there at the right time and the right place."
Phillips praises the class that she took from Brooks and says that everyone should learn CPR because the procedure might be needed at any time.
"I want to encourage people," she said.
Brooks, a paramedic and firefighter at Savannah River Site, has been offering his CPR class at the Columbia County Medical Plaza in Evans about twice a month for the past few years. His final class of the year for the community will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the medical plaza. He will be teaching separate CPR classes for health professionals.
As an instructor of the maneuver that he says "keeps the blood flow and oxygen moving," Brooks says he's often heard stories of saves.
"I've had at least 10 people that I know tell me that they made a save from taking this class," he said.
The procedure isn't hard to learn, he says.
"It's a very easy class, and you'll learn a lot," he said to a group of 10 while teaching Nov. 8. "When you leave here tonight, you'll have it in your mind."
CPR involves the following steps: First, check to see whether the distraught person is conscious and alert. If not, call 911 and place your ear to the person's face while watching the chest to see whether there is any breathing. If there isn't, and it doesn't seem that there is neck trauma or a choking hazard, grab the person's chin with your fingers, lift up and breathe twice slowly into the person's mouth while pinching the nose closed.
Each breath should last about a second.
If there is still no breathing, coughing or movement, begin compressions. Find the bottom of the person's breastbone and place the heel of your hand higher up on the breastbone. With one hand over the other, press downward about an inch 15 times quickly. Follow that with two more breaths into the person's mouth. Continue the 15 compressions and two breaths four times, until the person becomes alert or an ambulance arrives.
Brooks says those performing CPR should not expect the victim to recover while the procedure is being performed. Typically, he said, CPR only preserves the person's heart until a paramedic can arrive and provide an electric shock to the heart with an automatic external defibrillator.
"That's key," he said.
The heart, as Brooks explains it, goes into what is called ventricular fibrillation when a heart attack occurs - or a state of quivering. The quivering lasts for about five minutes until the heart completely stops. A save can usually take place only when a shock is given during that time.
The good thing about CPR, Brooks said, is that it keeps the heart in the quivering state sometimes as long as an extra five minutes.
"You're basically buying the person some time," Brooks said.
In Rutledge's case, that time made all the difference.
For more information on classes taught by Brooks, call him at 860-8583. The cost is $18 per person.
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