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July 15, 2011

ND dad's knowledge of CPR saves son

By Danielle Rebel
The Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. — A pleasant day by the pool turned into a nightmare for one Bismarck family.

On June 26, the world changed for Joe Stark as he heard his son Trentyn's panicked cries. Stark and his family had been swimming in their above-ground pool and had retired to the hot tub. As his sons Brityn and Trentyn, both 4, got out, he thought they were going to the house. Instead, they returned to the pool without life jackets, beginning the horrors the family faced that day.

"All of a sudden, Trentyn's on the top of the ladder by the pool and he's yelling, 'Brityn's at the bottom of the pool! Brityn's at the bottom of the pool!' and pointing," Stark said.

When he heard Trentyn's cries, he ran to the family's pool and froze - his son Brityn was lying lifeless beneath the water. Stark yelled, "Oh my God, Brityn!" alerting his wife, LaRae, who had been standing near the window in the house. She immediately dialed 911 while Stark jumped into the pool after his son.

"Once I got him out of the pool, I lifted him up and expected him to start coughing, and there was nothing," Stark said.

When Brityn remained without a pulse after resurfacing, Stark called on his CPR training - doing compressions while hoping and praying that his son would give some sort of response and hold on until professional help arrived.

"Finally, I heard a little bit of a cough, and then there was a cry, which was music to my ears," Stark said.

Within a few, minutes help arrived. Firemen got there first, followed shortly by an ambulance. Brityn's body temperature and oxygen levels were both low.

Brityn was kept at the hospital overnight for observation, but returned home unscathed the following morning. On-site CPR made the difference.

"I never thought I would have to use it," Stark said. "I've used first aid a few times ... but Inever thought it would happen with CPR."

The couple, worried that their children were going to be scarred from the horrors they viewed and experienced, contemplated draining the pool. Instead, they decided to leave the pool up but enforce safety measures.

"The kids know that mom and dad are in the pool first before they go near the pool," LaRaeStark said.

"And now when we get out of the pool, the ladder goes into the pool so they can't get into it," Joe Stark said.

Since Trentyn viewed what happened to his brother, he is more cautious around water than ever, but Brityn seems unfazed by the day's events.

"The first thing he says when we came through the door (after returning from the hospital) is, 'Can I go swimming?'" Stark said.

Though at first they were cautious about letting their son near the pool again, a sense of normalcy has returned to their lives in the two weeks following. One would never guess that the little boy running happily around the yard was once lying lifeless at the bottom of a swimming pool.

Only a few minutes prior to the accident, Trentyn was supposed to retrieve a toy from the pool and didn't want to get in. Brityn volunteered, swimming across the pool and back easily in his life jacket.

"Iremember making a comment that he's going to be a lifeguard some day. It's kind of odd that a few minutes later his brother is saving him," Stark said.

Because of quick responses from Trentyn, Joe and LaRae Stark, Brityn's story has a happy ending. Trentyn and Joe will be receiving Heartsaver Hero Awards from the American Heart Association.

"I was glad that, God willing, we got a second chance," Joe Stark said.

Raising awareness

After hearing the Starks' story, CPR instructors are pushing even more for public awareness about the action that can save lives.

"I think the awareness is getting better, but still not everybody is trained in CPR and everybody should be, in my opinion," said DeeAnn Werre, EMS instructor and basic lifesaving coordinator with St. Alexius Medical Center.

Becoming familiar with the steps to take during an emergency situation could be the difference between life and death. Fortunately, the Stark family did "absolutely everything correctly.

"Somebody called for help; somebody jumped in and grabbed the little boy out, started compressions, while somebody else called 911. I mean, that is exactly what needs to be done. And obviously that's what saves lives," Werre said.

Thanks to his CPR training, Stark was able to help his son start breathing again before help arrived. Otherwise, the result may have been very different.

"Ihate to think what would have happened. If Trentyn wouldn't have told me, it could have been two, three, five more minutes and that could have been the difference, so he's really the hero," Stark said.

Even if someone has had CPR training, refresher courses are recommended, since certification through the American Heart Association must be renewed every two years.

"Not everybody does CPR every day, so getting in and getting that renewal makes you as an individual more comfortable in starting that CPR and understanding the importance of starting the compressions to keep the blood flow to the heart and the brain," Werre said.

Not being certified in CPR should not be cause for panic in an emergency. The steps can still be performed by any bystander, but may have a few minor changes.

"Many times we're in a situation where we don't have a barrier device and we're not comfortable with giving the two breaths; that's OK," Werre said. "The compressions are the most important."

Typically, the chest compression to breath ratio is 30 to 2, but the American Heart Association says that getting compressions started before professional help arrives makes a vast difference - even if no breaths are administered during that time.

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