Olympia woman's unexpected first responder role highlights importance of CPR, AED training

The emergency highlighted the importance of knowing CPR and AED usage.

An Olympia woman who spends most days helping other people save lives was thrust into the role of first responder last weekend. It's a lesson in the importance of knowing CPR and how to operate an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

“You’re panicked. You're shaking all over, and someone's life is on the line right there,” said Helen Kramer, an executive assistant for the Washington State Council of Firefighters.

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Kramer was volunteering at the Olympia Pie Fest on Saturday when a woman collapsed and stopped breathing.

Kramer, who has done CPR and defibrillator training, rushed over and with the help of a nurse and others on-scene, gave the woman CPR. Then they used the AED to shock the patient to get her heart beating again.

“All of a sudden she (gasped), and a huge breath came in, and she started to move her hand a bit,” Kramer said.

Paramedics arrived within minutes, and by then the woman was conscious and talking.

“I just feel like I try to love people every day, no matter who they are, and that's what our members do, and that's what we can all do as citizens, is love people, and be willing to help somebody when they need it,” she said.

Kramer says the experience helped her better understand the first responders she works with every day.

“I'm all the more grateful for them,” she said.

The emergency highlighted the importance of knowing CPR and AED usage. To learn more about training, contact your local fire department or the American Red Cross.