They got the beat

CPR class has students working in rhythm on life-saving skills
Diego Becerra, 11, participates in “CPR Anytime,” a program designed to make sure students learn CPR before they graduate, Saturday at Fichtner-Mainwaring Park in Medford.Julia Moore

Samantha Metheny incorporated the Bee Gees' disco classic "Staying Alive" in her CPR class Saturday that kicked off a push to spread the word about the life-saving technique to every seventh-grader in Medford.

Metheny, a fire inspector and public education officer with Medford Fire-Rescue, walked a collection of kids and adults through a round of CPR training at Fichtner-Mainwaring Park.

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Medford Fire-Rescue offers free CPR classes every other month. The classes are certified by the American Heart Association, and each student will receive a CPR card upon successful completion of the course. For more information on Medford Fire-Rescue community CPR classes, call 541-774-2300.

The students practiced chest compressions on a handful of mannequins. Metheny instructed them to be forceful when issuing the compressions. The amount of pressure placed on a heart attack patient's chest could be the difference between life and death.

"Sing 'Staying Alive' to yourself as you push down," Metheny said. "Go with that beat and that should be good enough."

On her word, 11-year-old Diego Becerra began pushing down on the dummy. He found it surprisingly tough going.

"It takes a lot to push down, but I put all my weight on it and it worked," Diego said. "I'm glad I was able to practice. It could come in handy someday."

The goal is to give every seventh-grader in Medford a quick lesson in CPR technique, according to Anne Hansen, a critical care nurse specialist at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

Asante is working with medical volunteers from Providence Medford Medical Center and local emergency services agencies to give kids the tools to deal with a cardiac emergency.

"We want to teach them the proper way to perform CPR and then have them teach five of their friends or family members," Hansen said.

Saturday's event was open to anyone. The CPR education push will begin in earnest this coming school year when volunteers head into every middle school in Medford to provide lessons.

Metheny said that chest compressions are the most critical step in helping a cardiac patient. The new way of performing CPR does not involve mouth-to-mouth breathing. The strategy is to keep oxygenated blood moving through the pulmonary system with the compressions as medical crews rush to the scene.

Many people either don't put enough effort into the compressions or freeze in the face of an emergency, Metheny said.

"If you feel ribs or cartilage break, you can't worry about that," she told the group. "You can recover from broken ribs, but being dead, now that's a problem."

The program does not provide official CPR certification, just a basic lesson in applying chest compressions, Hansen said.

In the face of a critical emergency, the patient won't care whether the person providing life-saving compressions has a certification card, Metheny said.

"We are the first responders in these emergencies, but you guys are the first-first responders," Metheny told the group. "It's so important that you have this down and can act in an emergency situation."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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