ROSCOE ญญ- Whether animals are big or small, Debra Webb, owner of Basic Healthcare Education in Roscoe, can resuscitate them in an emergency.
Any mammal can be revived using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Webb said, but larger animals such as horses, elephants and giraffes, are more difficult to help.
"The only thing I haven't figured out are whales or dolphins," she said.
Webb even taught CPR on a pet rat at the request of her granddaughter.
"She looked at me one day with her beautiful brown eyes while holding her pet rat and said 'grandma, you have to teach me CPR,'" Webb said. "What happens if he gets hurt? That was my most interesting case."
She believes everyone should know CPR for humans as well as pets.
"It's a chance to save someone's life," Webb said.
Performing CPR on an animal is similar to how it would be performed on a human, and it would need to be done for similar reasons.
Common occurrences include if an animal has heart disease and their heart stops, if the animal gets shocked from chewing on a cord or if the animal drowns.
"Most people think of their animals as their children. So if your animal gets hurt you want to help him," Webb said. "If your animal is choking, you can't pick him up and run him to the vet, because your vet may be far away. It may be after hours. It may be a weekend. So you need to know how to help them if they're choking. If you've got a dog or a cat that has a health or heart problem and their heart stops, you want to be able to do CPR on them so you can bring them back."
Instead of being placed on the back like people are for CPR, animals are placed on their side. The CPR-giver should breath into the animal's nose, making sure not to blow too much so lungs don't rupture.
"A lot of people don't want to push hard because they don't want to break ribs," Webb said. "Perfect CPR breaks ribs, so push hard. Just don't give too big of breaths."
Webb has worked with dozens of families to teach them how to care for their pets in an emergency. She started Basic Healthcare Education in 2002 to provide first aid and CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator training) to individuals or groups in the Stateline Area. She then branched out to pets in 2005.
Nowadays she works with doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, fitness centers, daycares, schools and more. In all, she's been teaching for 37 years. Webb estimates she teaches CPR to 500-600 people per year and that number is continuing to rise.
"The most important thing to me is my students know CPR. I don't let students leave until they're confident in their skills and what they've learned," Webb said. "I just don't have them take the test and say you're good to go. They did great on the mannequin. How are they going to do out there? I always make sure everyone knows exactly what they need to do and make sure everyone can ask questions. In real life you're going to go too fast, push too hard and blow too hard. So you have to be careful."
Webb encourages pet owners to make emergency plans for the entire family, including their animals. Webb said after Hurricane Katrina, many pets were separated from their owners and were left to fend from themselves in the flood waters. She now would like to make sure that pets are included in plans for disasters such as a hurricane, tornado or blackout. Having a pet first aid kit with gauze pads, blankets and more also can be beneficial.
When traveling in a car, Webb also said pets should be secured on a canine seatbelt, harness or in a carrier.
Webb's journey started when she quit school at 16. She thought she hated learning, but she was wrong.
At 21 she got her GED at Blackhawk Technical College and she went on to become a medical clerk, then a medical assistant, then she became an EMT and started teaching others.
Webb said she gave up being an EMT, because she didn't enjoy working on ambulances. Her son then was born in 1985.
"Everything went away except that gorgeous little boy and CPR instructing," Webb said.
She taught enough to keep up her license, and when her son was 14 she decided to make teaching her career. She started working at Rockford Memorial High School and the Red Cross, but ultimately quit those jobs to start her own business.
"It's just something I love to do. I've always loved helping and being a caregiver," Webb said. "Teaching CPR for people makes it easy for me to be a caregiver. I teach one student and that student may have five clients, so in a way I may have been a caregiver to six people."
Webb will travel as far north as Madison, Wisconsin, and as far south as Aurora and as east as Crystal Lake, Illinois, to teach. For more information on her classes, visit basichealthcareeducation.com.