Last Friday, Bill Sansone finally took a CPR course. He wishes he'd done it sooner.
In August, the 40-year-old lawyer was hiking alone on a remote trail in the North Carolina mountains when a frantic hiker ran up to him, screaming for help. A man had collapsed on the trail and needed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Sansone, armed only with what he remembered hearing in a radio interview about CPR, rushed to help others try and revive the man during the 45 minutes it took paramedics to arrive.
Unfortunately, the 35-year-old man died on the trail.
"You think, maybe if I'd had training the outcome may have been different," said Sansone.
He shared his story in an email to fellow employees at the State Attorney's Office in Tampa shortly after he returned from North Carolina, writing:
"I truly thought that we were going to save him that day. I looked at his face and tried to will him to wake up. Later, after he had passed, I asked him to forgive me, because I was not able to save him.''
In the email, Sansone offered to bring a CPR class to the office, and his colleagues agreed. With the support of Judge Paul Jeske of the 13th Judicial Circuit and State Attorney Mark Ober, he organized a series of training sessions for courthouse employees. The classes were coordinated by Aaron Block, a dual degree medical student in the colleges of medicine and public health at the University of South Florida. Block had heard about Sansone's experience from Jeske's son, a physician and recent USF grad.
Block works with USF's Center for Advanced Clinical Learning, which provides CPR and basic life support training for health professionals and the community. So many courthouse employees signed up, the center offered several classes on site.
"I think it's great that employees get to come on company time,'' Block said.
Last Friday's session brought together 16 courthouse employees with seven USF staffers, including two retired Tampa firefighters, and plenty of adult and infant mannequins. An American Heart Association video introduced each technique and Block offered more explanation and answered questions. The USF staffers and firefighters provided one-on-one assistance. The points repeatedly made were:
• You don't have to provide mouth-to-mouth breathing.
• Chest compressions — 100 a minute — are the most important part of CPR and they must be delivered with force.
"Those compressions are what keeps the person alive until the next link in the chain of survival arrives,'' Block explained.
For some, all of this was new. Jeske, 62, said he'd never learned CPR, but was inspired by Sansone's email.
Tony Julian, 53, an assistant state attorney in the juvenile division, learned CPR back in the '70s when he was a lifeguard.
"After reading Bill's email I would feel guilty if I didn't know what to do, since we had the opportunity to learn," he said, noting that a lot had changed about CPR since his lifeguard days.
His colleague Jareh Kelly, 36, was trained in CPR while in the military, but hasn't refreshed her skills since 2006. "You never know when you'll need it," she said.
And Winter Hartman, a 22-year-old legal secretary, took CPR in high school, but wanted to brush up for her next career. "I plan to one day become a deputy, so as much training as I can get the better," she said.
Sansone still thinks about Corwith Davis, the Louisiana man who died on that mountain trail. Davis' family has told him about the doctor who doubts anyone could have saved him from his massive heart attack. Sansone takes some comfort in that. But he takes even more in knowing that he and his colleagues will be better prepared for the next emergency.
Irene Maher can be reached at [email protected]