When an infant stops breathing, parents or guardians have only a few minutes to act before serious brain injury occurs.
But with the right training, just about anybody can help save a baby’s life.
With a donation from a medical products company, Amsterdam Memorial Hospital is offering a training course for parents expecting a newborn.
The class size is limited to 10 expecting couples, but each of them will receive a training kit they can use to teach friends and relatives how to save an infant’s life, said David Fariello, a registered nurse and director of occupational medicine and physician relations at Amsterdam Memorial Hospital.
The course will teach adults how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, on infants up to a year old.
It’s easy to tell when infants aren’t breathing — they turn blue, said Fariello, who manages the American Heart Association’s community training center at the Route 30 hospital.
Fariello said most often, the cause of cardiac arrest in infants is related to choking.
Training and practice is critical, Fariello said, in part because of the emotional situations that occur when a baby isn’t breathing.
“You have to trust yourself,” Fariello said.
The training slated for next week should spread to dozens of people once expecting parents are trained themselves, he said.
Each of the 10 participants will receive a kit provided by the hosptial equipment supplier Laerdal Medical. The Swiss-based company produces training materials and manikins for first responders. The donation will help the company gain exposure and spread its mission to support emergency lifesaving.
The Infant CPR Anytime kit includes a baby manikin, a training DVD and text materials. They cost about $40 each, but they’ll be free to participants.
Fariello said the course will outline some of the steps people should not take when starting CPR on an infant. Even for adults, rescuers are advised not to stick fingers in the victim’s mouth unless an object is visible and easily removed. Doing so could further lodge the object down in the throat, he said.
Choking eventually relaxes muscles, Fariello said, and the CPR breathing technique will get air into the body regardless.
Breathing air into a baby’s lungs is a sensitive and potentially dangerous action, he said, so another emphasis on training is not over-doing it.
“The crucial thing in infant CPR … we can be overzealous,” Fariello said. Blowing too much into an infant’s tiny lungs can cause them to explode, so parents will be taught to breathe “little puffs” into the baby’s mouth, just enough to see the chest rise.
Years ago, there was a method called “abdominal thrust” used to try to unblock an infant’s air passages, and that technique is no longer used, Fariello said. Pushing fingers upward from below the baby’s ribs damages organs.
Chest compressions are used instead, just like for adults, and an important key in compressions is ensuring “recoil.” Sometimes, people performing CPR can get tired and they wind up leaning on the victim, making it impossible for the heart to suck blood back in.
According to the American Heart Association, immediate CPR in a heart-attack victim can double a person’s chance of survival, but Fariello said it has to be done right.
“Good CPR doesn’t save lives, great CPR saves lives,” Fariello said.
The course, open to expecting parents, will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the fifth-floor conference room at Amsterdam Memorial Hospital. The hospital is located at 4988 state Route 30 in the town. For more information or to register, contact 841-3414.