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Witness becomes first responder
HRF6 Ron

Dawson County resident and business owner Ron Zappendorf thought he saw a woman being assaulted on the side of a road.

He pulled over to assist her, but quickly discovered the couple was involved in a medical emergency.

The man was grabbing her shoulders and shaking her trying to revive her, Zappendorf explained. He was yelling, Come on, breathe for me!

The victim was an asthmatic diabetic and Zappendorf said her boyfriend did not know how to revive her other than by beating on her.

When I showed up, she had extreme labored breathing which stopped after I had been with her for about ten seconds, he explained. The victims eyes rolled back and Zappendorf immediately checked for a pulse and chest movement.

She was non responsive.

I started the first round of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and she came back, he explained. I told her who I was and what I was doing to try and buy some time until the paramedics could get there.

But the confused and shocked victim did not stay responsive for very long. Again, her eyes rolled back and her body went limp.

I started a second round of CPR, and was on chest compression number 19 when she finally started coughing, Zappendorf explained. The emergency services response time was incredible, and they had her on the stretcher and loaded in less than two minutes from the time they arrived.

Zappendorf received free CPR and first aid training when he was a park and recreation coach in another county.

It has been said time and time again, the first few minutes of an emergency situation are the most critical.

What could be considered a minor issue, such as an insect sting could quickly become a major medical emergency if the first responder is unsure of how to treat the problem.

And in most cases, the witness becomes the first responder.

But even with the impressive response time of Dawson Countys emergency services, Zappendorf said the first few minutes were the most critical.

And the couple was extremely lucky to have someone trained to administer CPR passing by during the emergency.

If it werent for my son leaving something in my car and me reading a yoga schedule wrong, I would have never been there, he said.

Preparation and luck were two key components that saved her that day.

Joni Smith, an executive director with the American Red Cross said situations like these often occur.

The best thing you can do is prepare yourself and your family, Smith said. Everybody needs to be knowledgeable of first aid and CPR because we are the first responders, while we wait for trained emergency personnel to arrive.

The American Red Cross offers First Aid, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) Certification.

The First Aid classes teach how to respond to common first aid emergencies, including burns and cuts, head, neck and back injuries, and more.

The CPR/AED classes teach how to respond to cardiac and breathing emergencies in adults, and infant/child CPR options available.

Information about classes can be found by visiting, select your location by entering your zip code, choose a class category, and click find classes.

Smith said most classes in this area are held in Forsyth and Hall counties due to the number of registries.

We have to have a minimum number of people registered in order to offer a class, to offset the costs, she said.

We would like to offer classes in Dawson County, but we first need a partner who can offer a space large enough to accommodate a class and second, we need to have enough people interested in participating in a class in Dawson County to make it feasible.

Another option for training and certification is blended learning.

A lot of our classes are blended learning where you do the training online but then, you attend a class to be observed, said Smith. Its a great way to get the training you need without traveling to attend multiple classes.

If you are not able to receive training and certification due to finances, time constraints or other circumstances, Smith said there is one other option the Red Cross offers.

And its free.

There is a first aid app available, putting free and simple lifesaving information right in the hands of smart phone users.

Although it is not a substitute for professional training, the app features simple step-by-step instructions for everyday first aid scenarios, prioritized steps to take during an emergency, and preloaded content that gives instant access to all safety information at any time. More information about the app can be found on the American Red Cross website.

Smith said with all of the options available, everyone has the tools needed to serve as a first responder.

You just never know when you are going to be a first responder, she said. And no matter how quickly emergency services arrive, you need to know what to do while you are waiting.

You could be the one that saves someones life.