With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, medical professionals’ lives have changed forever. Many hospitals are overwhelmed and first responders are working overtime.

“Waits in the emergency department are 36 to 48 hours,” Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said at a COVID Task Force meeting.

This deep into the pandemic, many are hoping for some sort of relief.

“It’s nothing worse than picking up a patient and their last words, ‘I wish I’d taken the shot’,” Wardell Seals Jr., President and CEO of Heartbeat CPR said.

Heartbeat CPR is an organization that offers courses to reflect the content of the American Heart Association guidelines.

Seals has been working to help citizens learn life saving skills for decades. He has worked in the medical field since 1978.

He retired as a parademic firefighter in July when coronavrisu cases were on the rise.

Since then, he’s been emphasizing breathing techniques and chest compressions in his classroom. Trouble breathing is one of the emergency signs for COVID-19.

“For every minute that an individual is having a heart attack, they lose 10 percent chance of survival, per minute,” Seals explained. “You’re waiting on an ambulance for five minutes, that’s 50 percent.”

A few months ago, Seals and his instructors started an eight week phlebotomy program, teaching students how to draw blood, talk to patients and earn a national certification as a phlebotomy technician.

“I did pretty good with it but I just desired to be certified,” student Tangy Moore said.

Moore has been drawing blood for 37 years. She was taught by someone through training but desired to have a national certification.

“I always say anything could happen and it’s always good to have a backup plan and so this is his backup plan I would say,” student Ashley Thornell said.

Before the pandemic caused closures of businesses, Thornell’s job was to remodel inside of homes. Since home visits were stopped, she wanted to look into a career that would always be of service.

This, encouraged her to start with Heartbeat CPR and to start with her son by her side.

“I’ll be graduating walking across the stage with my son and he has honors too so I mean, nothing better.”

This is the whole goal of the program. It’s another way to help people who may have lost their jobs or passion during the pandemic, using tools they hope to not need but know during this critical time.