Cape San Juan, a community located at the south end of San Juan Island, is 10.1 miles from the town of Friday Harbor and a 20-minute drive obeying traffic laws. Even then, most residents know that travel time can vary greatly depending on an active summer season. When 9-1-1 is paged, 10 miles of curving tourist laden roads can affect the success of the chain of survival for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). There is a narrow 5-10 minute window before irreversible brain death and other negative effects can occur to an oxygen starved brain and body.
The chain of survival is composed of four key points:
Early access (calling for help)
Early CPR (bystanders)
Early defibrillation (access to an AED)
Early advanced life support (emergency medical services)
Fortunately there happen to be two volunteer EMTs, two retired EMTs, a nurse and a retired nurse living at the Cape. Francis Smith, a senior EMT volunteer for 12 years, and a former firefighter, has taken the initiative to give his friends and neighbors a fighting chance if a cardiac event should occur in his community. This spring he gathered 32 individuals from the Cape and Cattle Point neighborhoods to attend a CPR certification class.
“My goal was to get 12 and I was astounded to get 32,” a smiling Francis said. “We call ourselves the ‘SOUTHENDERS’.”
Training didn’t stop at that initial CPR class. The group tries to gather once a month to go over scenarios, ask questions and get “desensitized” to being the first person on scene to an emergency. These scenarios vary from moving a heavy patient off a bed or recliner to the floor for compressions, to entering someone’s home at 2 a.m.
The goal is for the first responder to focus on the skills that need to take place and not be bashful about it. The Cape Association is considering purchasing a community AED that will be located at the fire station/clubhouse and two additional personal units have been purchased by residents and are accessible if needed.
The next goal for Francis and the SOUTHENDERS is to work out the best way to alert available team members should a cardiac incident occur. The team is still working this issue and welcomes input.
It takes an immense amount of time and energy to gather people together, especially with busy summer schedules. San Juan Island EMS would like to congratulate Francis and the SOUTHENDERS for dedicating the time to preparedness and being proactive about the health and safety of each other and families.