Wyo. woman awarded medal for CPR in parking lot

She was at work when someone ran into her office and asked if anyone knew CPR; she got her certification this year

By James Chilton
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A local office manager became the first recipient of a new award from Cheyenne Fire and Rescue on Friday.

Gina Flinn was awarded the department's Citizens Medal for her efforts to provide CPR to a person suffering a heart attack. Flinn was at work at Laramie County Chiropractic on the morning of May 29 when someone ran into the office to ask if there was anyone who knew CPR.

"I got my certification on March 18 of this year," Flinn said.

"You never expect something like that to happen, but I have three grandchildren, and I took it in case anything ever did happen."

In this case, however, the victim was a man who had collapsed in the parking lot of the Indian Hills Shopping Center. Cheyenne Fire and Rescue Operations Division Chief Jon Narva said the man had suffered a cardiac arrest, and it was thanks to Flinn's quick thinking that the man was stabilized.

"She went to help him out immediately," Narva said. "And he did have pulses going when he left the scene. The sooner CPR starts, the survivability rate of someone who has a cardiac arrest just jumps up."

Flinn learned that the man died about a week later, but had she not stepped in when she did, he may not have had that extra week of life.

Cheyenne Fire and Rescue Chief James Martin said that regardless of the outcome, it is important for the department to recognize those individuals who are ready and able to help their neighbors in need. It's for that reason, he said, that the department decided to create the Citizens Medal.

"We've given out certificates before, but this is the first time we've given a medal," Martin said. "Cheyenne's a great community, and when a neighbor helps a neighbor, too many times we just don't say thank you."

He added that the medal also highlights the importance of citizens getting CPR-certified. While CPR alone usually isn't enough to restart a person's heartbeat, it does help keep oxygenated blood moving around the body, making it more likely that the victim can have their heart shocked back to life without permanent damage.

"CPR is very important. That's why we promote it," Martin said. "If you look in the first four to six minutes, you're giving that person a fighting chance to survive. The faster it's started, the better the chance of survival."

For her part, Flinn said she feels honored to receive the award, though in the heat of the moment she hardly had time to think about her actions. For her, performing CPR was simply her automatic response to the situation.

"The Lord gave me the strength and took over my hands," she said. "It was just a natural reaction. I didn't even think twice about it."

Bob Mason with Cheyenne Fire and Rescue said anyone interested in becoming CPR-certified can call 637-6311 for more information.

"Ms. Flinn noticed a person in distress who needed help and unflinchingly gave help to that person," Mason said. "We only wish everybody could be in a position to do so."

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