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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Eileen in Port Angeles" about CPR and the people who judge the caregivers hit home. As a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for 18 years, I have answered many calls where a person has died from cardiac arrest. It's hard when a stranger dies in your hands, and even harder when it's someone you know.

The evolution of CPR and defibrillation has made it possible to "save" a percentage of these people, but it's a very small percentage. Most cardiac arrests result in the patient remaining dead. Therefore it's important that anyone rendering care remember that once the heart stops, the person is clinically dead. Nothing they do is going to make that worse. If all of the resuscitation efforts fail, the care provider has not "killed" the person, nor contributed to his death, and it is NEVER the provider's fault that the person died.

If more people got involved and learned CPR and other basic first-aid skills, they would have a better understanding of life and death, and they wouldn't be so quick to criticize and look for blame that isn't there. -- BOB GAJEWSKI, WALES CENTER, N.Y.

DEAR BOB: I have a stack of mail from readers echoing your sentiments. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As a 30-year veteran emergency medical services technician and current CPR instructor, I can empathize with the overwhelming feeling of guilt experienced by "Mary Helen," who performed CPR on her brother. In our society, we are conditioned to believe that anything less than "winning" is failure. But to encourage that guilt by saying someone failed or "lost" a cardiac-arrest victim is reprehensible.

Potential rescuers must have the motivation to learn CPR. Second, they must be willing to get involved and take control in an emergency. Third, they must be able to exert the physical strength and emotional stamina. These challenges must be met before the actual CPR process begins. Most individuals are not prepared to go this far. Thankfully, "Mary Helen" was. Heroes never plan to be heroic; they just unselfishly give of themselves.

"Mary Helen," please recognize that you exhibited the courage, executed the skills and performed heroically. Remember, the ultimate decision was never yours to make. That load is not yours to bear.

We are excited by the entry of new technology and improved CPR skills that will allow us to substantially increase resuscitation rates. I am referring to the introduction of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and newly enhanced courses offered by national training entities for the general public. In the near future this device will be readily available in stadiums, airports, shopping centers, businesses, churches and homes. The challenge is to train as many people as possible in the operation of this user-friendly medical marvel.

I encourage your readers to contact their nearest CPR training facility and inquire about the AED and the latest courses available in its application. -- BILL CARTER, CHATTANOOGA, TENN.

DEAR BILL: That's exciting news. About five years ago, I had my staff certified in a "heart-saver" course offered by the American Heart Association. Thank heavens we have never encountered an emergency, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Thank you for the reminder to call the association and ask, "What's new?"

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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