Focus On Pediatrics-Kids learn to 'do the right thing'

Emergency training not too difficult for kids

Knowing how to react in an emergency can mean the difference between life and death for the victim. Therefore, many community outreach programs target adults, giving them such skills as CPR training and first-aid techniques. However, adults are not always present during crisis situations. That's why community outreach classes at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera, CA, have been designed to give children the skills they need in emergency situations.

For example, CPR for Kids is a class taught to children ages 6 through 11, and Home Alone provides information on everything from choking to fire safety for children ages 7 to 12.

The Home Alone courses are aimed at latchkey kids, children who arrive home from school to an empty house because both parents are at work, says Casey Eckert-Luker, community education/ health coordinator at the hospital.

The CPR for Kids class came about after Eckert-Luker saw a television show that re-enacted a near drowning and the attempts to save the victim by a young teen when no adults were present. "The teen on television started doing all kinds of things to save the child's life that were not correct. After seeing that show, I went to the CPR instructor and asked if children were too young to learn CPR," explains Eckert-Luker.

To tailor CPR to children, the CPR instructor and Eckert-Luker went through the literature to make the language appropriate for children. They did not want to dilute the meaning of any of the words used, such as resuscitation. Rather than replace such words, the instructors defined the words for the children.

Part of the instruction helps children recognize the warning signs of cardiopulmonary emergencies for adults and children. CPR often is thought of as something used on an adult, so the instructor discusses some of the situations that might occur that would cause a child to stop breathing, such as a blow to the head or near-drowning.

Children learn CPR techniques for infants, children, and adults, and they practice on mannequins. The children also learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

During both the CPR and Home Alone classes, children are trained to talk to a 911 dispatcher. Children need to know what dispatchers will say and what kinds of questions will be asked so they don't panic during the call, explains Eckert-Luker.

While CPR instruction is discussed during the Home Alone course, hands-on teaching is not included. Much of the class focuses on the discussion of "what would you do if" scenarios. These scenarios include the following:

• What would you do if you got a phone call that made you feel uncomfortable?

• What would you do if you came home from school and the door was open and you knew mom and dad weren't home?

• What would you do if someone came to the door and you didn't recognize that person?

• What would you do if you put something in the microwave to heat and burned yourself?

The scenarios are taken from a book that Eckert-Luker found at a commercial bookstore, titled "What Would you Do?" Children are given a copy of the book to take home and encouraged to go through at least one scenario each night with their parents.

The classes are offered quarterly. The Home Alone course costs $20 for the first child and $10 for each additional child, and parents are required to attend. The CPR class is $15 per child. A fee is charged to cover the cost of the instructor and class materials, but Eckert-Luker is trying to find ways to offer the classes in community settings free of charge.

For more information about CPR and home-alone classes for kids, contact:

Casey Eckert-Luker, Community Education/Health Coordinator, Valley Children's Hospital, 9300 Valley Children's Place, MB05, Madera, CA 93638. Telephone: (559) 353-7230. Fax: (559) 353-7160. E-mail: caseyluker@valleychildrens.org.