Hands-on help

North Dakota Kiwanian helps others save lives through CPR.

Story by Lydia Johnson

When Kiwanian Riley Rude enrolled in a CPR class, he did so as a precaution. As dad to a new daughter, he believed it would be wise to take a refresher course.

Still, he says, “I never thought I’d use it.”

The class was taught by Kristi Engelstad, a fellow member of the Kiwanis Club of Lake Agassiz, Fargo, in North Dakota. Teaching the skill had become a mission for her.

In 2014, she learned that, within the United States, 40% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from a bystander. (Today, the American Heart Association reports the number is closer to 46%). But in the communities of Moorhead, Minnesota, and Fargo, North Dakota, CPR was administered only 33% of the time.

Engelstad, publicity chair for her club, took the information seriously. As an experienced paramedic, she knew that, when performed quickly, CPR doubles or triples the chance of survival.

So when F-M Ambulance, Engelstad’s employer, launched an initiative to raise awareness and survival rates in the two close-knit communities, she left ambulance duty to provide outreach as a public speaker and teacher. For the past five years, Engelstad has taught hands-only CPR and first aid to groups in schools, organizations and service clubs.

“Hands-only CPR is when you just push on the chest,” she explains. “You don’t have to do any breathing at all.”

As an extension of her community commitment, she began teaching an annual class at her Kiwanis club. After Rude’s daughter was born, he signed up. And the skill he never thought he’d use would become invaluable. 

In November 2018, Rude, a real estate developer, was working at a construction site. Suddenly, a man clearing snow at a neighboring property collapsed and became unconscious. Rude went straight to his training from Engelstad. He immediately gave the man CPR, while another bystander called 911.

The man lived.

According to the American Heart Association, less than 10% of people survive cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. But CPR can improve those odds. To raise awareness and show appreciation for learning the skill, F-M Ambulance recognizes those who’ve saved a life with CPR.

Engelstad organized a recognition ceremony for Rude at the station. There, he met Rusty Collins, the man he saved, and received a Citizen’s Lifesaving Award in front of friends and family. 

Engelstad wants survival stories like Collins’ to be even more common, and she encourages other Kiwanis clubs to contact a local ambulance service for CPR training. 

“It’s easy to do and easy to learn,” she says. “Doing something is better than nothing.”

Adds Rude,“It’s such a huge payoff, You’d sure regret just standing by.”

This story originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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