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The Lifeline

Bringing you the best local stories in and around our community.

Life Lessons

Featured Photo from Life Lessons

After a life-saving experience at a local grocery store, the Lake Mary Fire Department is bringing free CPR training to your neighborhood

“Bardo Lagunas to the front, please. Bardo Lagunas to the front.”

As soon as he heard his name, Bardo knew something was up.

At 16 years old, Bardo took his very first job as a bagger at a Publix store in DeLand. Nearly 20 years later, he’s climbed all the way up the ranks and is now about a year into his role as store manager of the Timacuan Publix on Rinehart Road in Lake Mary. 

With all that Publix experience, Bardo knew well the etiquette of the in-store paging system: Page an employee by their first name only, it’s important. Page them by first and last name, the matter is urgent, up to and including an emergency.

Bardo made a beeline to the front of his store a few days before Easter 2021, and he immediately saw the emergency at hand. A customer was lying on the floor near the pharmacy, completely unresponsive.

“Every three years, we get training for first-aid and emergency situations like this,” Bardo says. “I always hoped I’d remember everything we were taught when the time came. Somehow, my body just went on automatic.”

Bardo reached down and felt the woman’s arm for a pulse. Nothing. He tried again at her neck. Still nothing. She was in cardiac arrest. A customer volunteered to begin CPR chest compressions, and Bardo started mobilizing his troops.
“I was only a few months into my job at this store,” he says. “I was still trying to learn everyone’s name!”

He saw Brittany, one of his team members, and told her to get the store’s AED (automated external defibrillator) device. In the panic, Brittany was clearheaded enough to admit she wasn’t entirely sure where it was, so Bardo pivoted. ”You call 911,” he said, “I’ll grab the AED.”

The AED was only a few steps away, but by the time Bardo returned with the device, the woman’s color was already turning from an unnatural pale to an alarming shade of blue. Just like he was trained, Bardo quickly cut off her shirt and followed the AED’s audible instructions to attach the electrode pads.

The device delivered its first, violent shock. The woman remained motionless. Bardo felt for a pulse again, and when he found none, triggered the AED to shock her once more. She lurched a second time, immediately drawing an urgent breath as the blood rushed back to her face. A few seconds later, the Lake Mary Fire Department was on the scene. They took the woman to a nearby ER, and she eventually made a full recovery.

“When it was over, I finished my shift,” Bardo shrugs, still struggling to believe how he was able to function at work for several more hours after such a harrowing ordeal. “There’s a lot of reporting to do when something like this happens in the store. Everyone at our corporate office who I spoke to kept asking how I was doing and if I needed to go home. I said I was fine. Really, I was just so proud of my team and the people in the store. But when I got in the car and drove home, it all hit me, and I broke down a little bit.”

Later that night, after Bardo had left, a gentleman came in looking for the man who’d saved his wife’s life. It took a day or two for the man and Bardo to connect, but they eventually did to share a lot of hugs and more than a few tears.

“If it wasn’t for you,” the man said, “I wouldn’t be talking to my wife right now.”

“They’re regular customers,” says Bardo. “They shopped here often, and they still do. It’s great to see them both every time they come in.”

An Initiative Is Born
What happened in the Timacuan Publix that day was inspiring, and no one was more inspired than Lillian Sexton, Lake Mary’s fire marshal.

Lillian knows, as Bardo is quick to point out, that the woman’s life was saved because several people on the scene knew what to do in an emergency. The customer knew how and when to begin chest compressions. Bardo knew where to find an AED and how to operate it. Brittany knew what to tell the 911 dispatchers.

Especially because hands-only CPR is now the recommended treatment for someone in cardiac arrest, life-saving lessons like these are simpler than ever, and Lillian is determined to spread them as far and wide as possible.

The incident at Publix prompted Lillian and her team at LMFD to launch a free, neighborhood-level CPR training initiative. Representatives from the Fire Department are now actively meeting residents where they are to provide quick and convenient training in hands-only CPR and AED basics. The first neighborhood class was held, appropriately, at the Timacuan Country Club in June.

“Our goal is to get everyone in Lake Mary trained in hands-only CPR,” says Lillian. “It’s a big goal, and at least a 1.5-to-2-year project, but we’re well on our way.”

The training classes are short, about 20-30 minutes, and teach what to do when someone around you suddenly falls unconscious and/or into cardiac arrest. As the name suggests, modern CPR procedures are hands-only (no mouth-to-mouth), and just about anyone can do them. Regarding AEDs, the classes stick to the basics – how to locate one, how to turn it on, and how to follow its audible commands. Training to attach the electrodes, themselves, and deliver the actual shocks is saved for a more advanced, four-hour class that offers full CPR certification.

After the Timacuan classes, Lillian and the team hosted another hands-only event in the Griffin Park neighborhood, and you can expect to see LMFD regularly at city events like the Farmers Market and WineArt Wednesdays to give attendees a quick and convenient (and free!) opportunity to learn life-saving skills.

“Anything you can do helps,” Lillian says of the skills LMFD is teaching. “Even if you can’t do the full 80-120 chest compressions per minute, any compressions at all increase the chance of survival. We want to teach kids, too, even if they’re not big or strong enough to apply CPR compressions, themselves. They can tell an adult how to do it, and they can know how to call 911 and what to say.”

LMFD is partnering with Seminole County Public Schools, every HOA in the city, and a variety of business and community groups to continue spreading the word. In fact, the Fire Department is working with the Seminole County School Board to make basic, hands-only CPR training a requirement to graduate high school.

The training sessions at local events have been a hit, and more neighborhood classes are being scheduled. Meanwhile, the Fire Department’s usual training programs continue, like the babysitting class hosted by Torry Walker, the department’s fire inspector/public educator. Everyone who takes that class earns full ASHI (American Safety & Health Institute) certification. The neighborhood hands-only classes make a great jumping-off point for full certification programs, too, says Tina, and those certifications are usually required for employment in daycare centers and similar settings.

It’s all a pretty great outcome from what could have been a deadly situation at Bardo’s store.

“I’m just so happy this is creating awareness about CPR and how easy it is to learn basic, life-saving skills,” says Bardo. “It’s easy to think something like this will never happen to us – that we’ll never need help, or that we’ll never be right there when someone else needs help.

“But,” Bardo adds, “you never know.”

To learn more about the Lake Mary Fire Department’s many CPR training programs, including the free neighborhood classes, call Torry Walker at 407-585-1422 or visit LakeMaryFL.com/cprfirst-aid.

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