Denise Baldwin of Roswell teaches CPR classes three times a week in Clovis. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer
Denise Baldwin lost both of her parents to cardiac arrest — each time no one performed CPR.
“They just stood there,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin — who had taught CPR at the Red Cross since 1992 — refused to teach the life-saving technique for two years after her mother’s death. She started to think that it didn’t make a difference.
After returning to CPR instruction in April, Baldwin learned first-hand how important it can be when she came to the aid of a co-worker at a banquet in September.
Baldwin, who lives in Roswell but works three days a week in Clovis, said she reacted quickly when she saw Anna Avila fall.
“She is a mother, somebody loves her and she needs help,” said Baldwin, who was suffering from a sprained back at the time. “I really didn’t think of anything but helping her.”
Anna Avila, a 39-year-old mother of three from Clovis, said she was feeling sick the morning before she collapsed.
“She went all out of her way to assist me. She didn’t hesitate,” Avila said. “If it hadn’t been for her, who knows? I wouldn’t be here.”
Baldwin received the Heartsaver Award on Oct. 13 from the American Heart Association and Options Services, Inc. — where she is employed — for her heroics.
The award is given to someone who plays a vital role in saving a life. Baldwin was nominated for the award by a co-worker who thought her quick response and willingness to sacrifice herself with an injured back was commendable.
According to statistics from Donnie Roberts, training coordinator at Emergency Medical Service Region 3 in Clovis, the chances Avila would be here without Baldwin are slim.
The survival rate of those who suffer from cardiac arrest in Clovis is between 3 and 13 percent when CPR is performed, Roberts said.
A former Emergency Medical Technician, Roberts said one of the reasons survival rates are low is because often the EMT is the first person on a scene to perform CPR.
“A lot of people don’t survive cardiac arrest because the event wasn’t reported early and no one did CPR,” Roberts said. He said that the percentage of survival would increase if people knew CPR and performed it.
The chance that someone actually does CPR and saves a life is rare, Roberts said. Statistics show only 1 out of every 10 people trained in CPR do it and do it correctly when someone goes into cardiac arrest, he said.
As for her back, Baldwin said she did not think about the pain.
“That kind of went out the window,” she said. Baldwin said her back “just took a little longer to heal.”
It was different to do CPR on a real human instead of the mannequin Baldwin uses for instruction: She said she was worried about breaking Avila’s ribs, but not for long. “I figured broken ribs can heal, her heart’s gotta get started,” Baldwin said.
Even with all the publicity she received, Baldwin said her biggest concern is that Avila gets well. She said doctors are still deciphering what caused the problem.
“I’m feeling a lot better but I still had a few more episodes after,” Avila said.
Since saving Avila, Baldwin’s faith in CPR has been restored.
“Everybody should know CPR,” Baldwin said. “You can’t plan your tragedies, you have to be prepared for them.”