It shouldn't take having your heart broken to motivate you to learn CPR, American Red Cross volunteer Lupe Williams of Stockton said.
Williams was one of many Red Cross volunteers helping to teach the life-saving skill of cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the annual CPR Saturday event in Lodi. And she said she knows first-hand that if you don't learn CPR before you need it, it could, sadly, be too late.
In 1995, Williams' sons and their cousins were on their way home from a store when they stopped at a local park to play. In a tragic moment of fate, her eldest son happened to find a handgun buried in the sand at the foot of the swings.
As Williams' 12-year-old son, Georgie, approached his brother, the gun went off, hitting Georgie in the face.
"I wish I would have known CPR. I think maybe I could have been able to keep my son alive a little longer. Maybe until help arrived," Williams said, her eyes filling with tears, even after 10 years.
Jean Gleason, executive director of the San Joaquin Chapter of the Red Cross, said CPR training is about providing the average person the skills necessary to keep an accident victim or injured person alive until trained help arrives.
"The thing is to be able to correctly perform CPR until the pros get there," she said.
Although more than 100 people did get their CPR certificates Saturday, American Red Cross volunteers said they wish even more people would come out.
"It's hard for people to imagine they will ever need CPR, but as Lupe's story illustrates, we all need it. We all need to be trained in CPR and learn basic first-aid," Gleason said.
Aria Pauling, 7, right, practices giving an abdominal thrust to "choking victim" Oliva Maffel, 9, during the American Red Cross's CPR Saturday at the Grape Festival Grounds in Lodi. (J. Paul Bruton/News-Sentinel)
Williams' tragic loss of her son led her to not only learn CPR and other life-saving first aid, but has inspired her consistent involvement with the American Red Cross as a volunteer since 1997.
Pregnant with her second daughter at the time of Georgie's death, Williams said she came to the realization that not knowing CPR was no longer an option.
She said that she wanted to make sure she would be able to help her other children, family or friends if the situation ever arose again.
"Because of my experience, I decided that I would never risk that happening again," she said. "I have encouraged many, many people to learn CPR because you just never know when -- where -- at any time, it could be needed."
There are CPR classes offered year-round through the American Red Cross, but CPR Saturday is the annual training day that allows the community to come out and train for a minimal cost. For the first time, the ARC charged $5 per person this year to cover the costs of materials.
Contact the American Red Cross for information on CPR classes, call 466-6971, or online at http://www.sanjoaquincounty.redcross.org.