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Nov. 11, 2006

Grad saves life

by Christina Mullen, Managing Design Editor
As she arrived at the scene of the crash, Blair graduate Kat Comisiak saw one of the victims unconscious on the ground. Crouching down next to him, Comisiak checked his neck and wrist for a pulse, but she felt nothing.

She bent over to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Knowing his life was in her hands, she let her training take over.

Last year in her Sports Medicine class, taught by Louis Hoelman, Comisiak earned American Heart Association (AHA) certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid. But more importantly, she learned the skills she would need to save a life - much sooner than she expected.

That afternoon, Comisiak and several friends, all 2006 Blair graduates, were driving home from the Renaissance Festival when they spotted the scene of a recent accident. With no paramedics in sight, they pulled over to see if they could help. Surveying the scene, Comisiak noticed a victim on the ground, clearly in a bad condition.

Comisiak knelt beside the victim and began checking for vital signs. She couldn't find his pulse.

Without wasting any time, Comisiak began performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the victim, checking for a pulse every cycle.

About a minute later, Comisiak felt a faint pulse, but it quickly vanished. With the help of her friend and fellow 2006 graduate Brigette Parr, Comisiak continued pumping and breathing. They traded places every few cycles.

After five long minutes, the victim finally regained consciousness and opened his eyes.

First response, first aid

After reviving the man, Comisiak began to deal with his physical injuries. Noticing deep cuts on his head and superficial scrapes all over his body, she inspected them for foreign objects. Spotting a shard of glass embedded in his knee, Comisiak used the pocketknife she always carries to dig it out of his flesh. She used her friends' spare bandannas and shirts as makeshift bandages to stop the flow of blood from the deep wounds on the victim's head and knee.

Comisiak performed a full-body inspection, checking to see if the man had any broken bones of trauma to his neck and spine. She felt a knot in the back of his neck, where something may have shifted. Using more spare clothing, she created a makeshift neck brace to prevent any further trauma.

Within a few minutes, the paramedics arrived and began loading the man into an ambulance. Comisiak and her friends remained at the scene until the last emergency vehicle had pulled away.

"A subconscious thing"

Comisiak had rehearsed CPR procedures so many times in class that in a real-life crisis, she knew what to do without even thinking about it. "It was a subconscious thing," she says. "When you're out there, you really don't think about it, but you know you're doing it right."

Hoelman says that the AHA curriculum is designed to give students enough practice to be able to respond automatically in an emergency. To his knowledge, though, Comisiak is the first student he had taught who had been able to use her training outside of class, so he's glad to know the students are absorbing the information. "In my class, I'm never quite sure how well the students learn CPR and First Aid and how they'll perform in a situation, so this is really refreshing," Hoelman says.

Though Hoelman had to go through extra training to be certified to teach CPR, he says it is worth the time. "I'm teaching them one of the most important things they can learn in school," he says.

Comisiak agrees and encourages everyone to take the class. "If it wasn't for Mr. Hoelman, that man wouldn't be alive," she says.

Though Comisiak hasn't heard about the condition of the man, she feels confident that he is fine. By the time the EMTs arrived, the man could stand up and was talking almost normally. One of the EMTs told Comisiak that the man was more than likely to survive.

Though Comisiak was able to save the man's life, she knows these stories don't always have a happy ending. "Honest to God," she says, "I hope I never have to do it again."



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  • doubt it on November 17, 2006 at 5:44 PM
    so where are the interviews with witnesses? how does a man go from not having a pulse to walking and talking? silverchips, you should really investigate deeper and not just go by word of mouth.
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