Ryan Boughal is a paramedic firefighter in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He previously served in similar roles in Virginia and California. And, pretty soon he’ll do CPR training classes with our team, and VJ is picking up the cost. We talked to him about his work and why the training matters.
How’d you get into your line of work and what do you like about it?
Growing up, I really thought I wanted to be an engineer. When I was at community college, I ended up having a lot of free time. I had some friends who had started volunteering in rescue services, so I decided to apply and see what it was like. I joined the local rescue squad and became an EMT with them. It became my passion, and I went to paramedic school after that. Then I became a volunteer firefighter and the rest is history.
It’s a really fun job—really exciting, and you never know what your day’s gonna be like. When someone calls 911, it’s because they need help. They have a problem and they don’t know what to do. Sometimes it’s taking them to a hospital. Sometimes it’s putting a battery in a smoke alarm. My station is responsible for all the high-angle rescues—that’s long, hot, grinding work.
It’s nice having a real purpose and value in what you do.
What are some common health events where CPR training can make a big difference?
CPR is cardiopulmonary resuscitation, so the main focus of the training is how to respond to cardiac arrest—when you come upon a person who’s unconscious or witness someone become unconscious because their heart has stopped. There are different ways someone can get there:
- A medical emergency that’s gone on too long
- Heart attack
How can you make a difference? You can actually save someone’s life. Their heart is not beating, they’re not breathing. You can fix that for them by breathing for them and making their heart beat again.
But, it’s hard to do it right. I’m very passionate about CPR training classes. I think everyone should know how to perform CPR. You never know when you might find yourself in that situation.
It’s July, so let’s talk about heat-related illnesses. What are the signs that someone’s in trouble?
There are a few different phases of heat-related illnesses.
- The first is cramps and soreness, when you’re not replacing electrolytes as quickly as you’re sweating them out. As time goes on and dehydration gets worse, that turns into …
- Heat exhaustion. You’re sweating profusely, you’re cool and clammy (not hot anymore), feeling dizzy, nauseated, and you start vomiting. It’s a whole-body effect instead of isolated to muscles. At this point you can give small sips of water, apply cool wet cloths on the back of a person’s neck, cool them in the armpits and groin—anything to cool the core. And if you can’t get it corrected, call 911 and get some help because eventually that person will go into …
- Heat stroke, when they’ve overheated so much and can’t compensate anymore. With heat stroke, a person will be hot, red and not sweating anymore. They’ll go beyond the dizziness and nausea, they’ll get confused and altered. They will have trouble standing, being coordinated, talking.
Are there situations in which administering CPR will not help?
It’s very much about timing. The “golden” time is a witnessed cardiac arrest—when you watch it happen. When CPR is started immediately, and you call 911 immediately, the person has the greatest chance of survival. As time goes on, if it’s not witnessed … it becomes less likely you can successfully resuscitate them. You should always give it a shot if you feel comfortable, but know that every minute counts.
Without any CPR being attempted, beyond the 5-10 minute mark, we start to become worried that there might be damage. Around 20 minutes after cardiac arrest without any CPR, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to bring that person back. And even if you can, their brain may not be the same.
By doing CPR, you’re buying time with those compressions and perfusing the brain. The bottom line is, if you’re not sure, do it. If someone needs CPR, and you don’t do it, you’re shattering their chances of survival. There are Good Samaritan laws in most places that protect you as long as you’re acting in good faith.
What are the big takeaways from CPR and First Aid training?
Having a little more knowledge than the average person can go a long way. If you haven’t learned it, it’s not intuitive. CPR and First Aid training can help people to:
- Assess the situation. You’ll be able to determine what needs to happen next, provide some care, and help calm some nerves.
- Do something. You don’t have to remember everything. The most important part is feeling comfortable to do something when there’s an emergency.
We hope you learned a few things and we’ve inspired you to participate in a CPR training class or First Aid course yourself. If you’re in Colorado Springs or El Paso County, we encourage you to get in touch with Ryan to register individually or schedule a group training. If you’re outside the region, consult your local fire department or hospital for direction on how to get certified.