Public safety brings back its lifesaving classes

Kara Watts, division chief of emergency medical services for The Villages Public Safety Department, displays CPR training mannequins. After a hiatus because of COVID-19, the department will restart training classes in mid-August.

When Luther Tinsley Jr. went to enjoy the music at Spanish Springs Town Square on May 21, he had no way of knowing that a typical night out would result in someone saving his life.

Tinsley said he was dancing to Trip 19 on the square with a lady friend, and was ready to do so with another when everything suddenly went black.

He came to in a hospital four days later, having survived a heart attack.

“My neighbor told me I just passed out,” said Tinsley, of the Village Rio Grande.

“I never had any pain. I never had any indication. It just stopped working, right in the middle of good music.”

Tinsley added that others told him he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. “My heart had just stopped,” he said.

Tinsley is here to share this story because of Lady Lake police Officer Jacob Clark, who performed CPR on him for up to 10 minutes until paramedics arrived.

Tinsley said he had felt no symptoms. Although he had a heart stent implanted in 2012, he had not had any problems since the procedure.

CPR For Beginners

The lesson — one that Tinsley advocates — is that CPR is a good thing to know, especially in a large community oriented toward senior citizens — and even if those residents are healthy and active.

Beginning in August, the Villages Public Safety Department will resume monthly classes for training in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, which are portable machines used to reset the heart back into a normal rhythm after someone has experienced sudden cardiac arrest.

VPS Division Chief Kara Watts, who oversees emergency medical services for the department, explained that the previous classes were paused when Gov. Ron DeSantis and The Villages managers requested limits on social interaction for the safety of others.

“Once the COVID restrictions were lifted, we resumed classes while still maintaining a high level of cleanliness and disinfection practices before and after a class to help reduce the spread of germs,” Watts said.

Now, VPS is offering three levels of instruction.

The first is based on the American Heart Association’s Family and Friends CPR class.

It costs $25 and runs for two and a half hours. The class is scheduled for Aug. 17 with morning and afternoon sessions and more to follow in subsequent months.

This is a noncertification, compressions-only class covering adults, children, infants and choking.

“It is specifically for lay-rescuers, or citizens, not health care providers or those requiring a certification for their job,” Watts said.

More Advanced Classes

 The second is the association’s basic life support instruction on CPR and AEDs for health care providers. The class costs $30 and lasts for four hours. It is scheduled for Aug. 19, with only a morning session.

Watts said this session also covers adults, children, infants and choking, but includes teaching “bag-valve” mask ventilation.

The class is a more comprehensive course that pertains to health care workers in pre-hospital and hospital settings, and provides instruction on more advanced skills than found in the Family and Friends program, Watts said.

Finally, there will be a class from the Emergency Care & Safety Institute’s method of CPR, AED use and first aid. The class costs $35 and also spans four hours. That, too, is a morning-only session, scheduled for Sept. 27.

According to Watts, this is a certification class accepted by churches and organizations that do not require a certification for a job, unless previously approved by the organization itself.

When and Where to Learn

The classes are conducted at VPS Station 44, 3035 S. Morse Blvd. in The Villages. Instructors are certified in CPR, AED and first aid, and can include firefighter/EMTs, firefighter/paramedics or the department’s public education technician.

Watts said the department would like to cap attendance at 16 students.

People vaccinated for COVID-19 are not required to wear masks, said Watts, but anyone who seems sick, including experiencing COVID symptoms, is asked to reschedule to take the class at a later date.

And previous experience with CPR or first aid is not necessary.

But, Watts noted, having that experience can be vital one day.

“Cardiac arrest incidents can happen anywhere,” she said. “It is important to know CPR and AED use because you never know when someone may need your help. Your knowledge can help save a life.”

Tinsley can attest to that.

Paying it Forward

Tinsley said he recently had a chance meeting with Clark. It occurred when he went to police headquarters to deliver a letter of gratitude to Clark, and one about his good deed to police Chief Robert Tempesta.

The station happened to be closed, yet as he turned to leave, Clark, not realizing who he was, walked up and asked Tinsley if he needed help. Tinsley said he broke down when he saw the officer’s name badge, adding that he was grateful that he got to hug Clark and thank him in person for saving his life.

After his brush with death, Tinsley said he intends to “pay it forward.”

He said he started making donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which treats youngsters for cancer, and “whatever else the lord wants me to do because he spared me and gave me another chance.”

“I still have bruises and my chest still hurts. But I’m alive, and I have no complaints,” Tinsley said.

Tinsley added that Clark is his hero.

“I just want to let the world know this guy is tops,” he said.

Tempesta said Clark will be honored with the town’s lifesaving award at an upcoming meeting. 

Staff writer Bill Thompson can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5228, or william.thompson@thevillagesmedia.com.