WESTMINSTER — Stacey Berman and Maureen Deisher planned a Saturday getaway from their young children.
They left their husbands in charge of the babies and headed for town.
The Eldersburg neighbors, who often baby-sit for each other, didn't indulge themselves with a frivolous shopping trip or an out-to-lunch, though. They spent six hours learning how to save a child's life.
"I have a 3-month-old at home," said Berman. "I want to be prepared for any accident."
The women had enrolled in a Red Cross coursethat would teach them how to react in an emergency. After receiving a certificate in infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation, theycalled their day away well spent.
"It was such a valuable lesson," said Deisher, whose baby is 18 months old. "We are registering the daddies for the next class."
Along with nine other students, the women watched videotapes and took notes as instructor Steve Turek gavethem the basics.
They also spent time on floor exercises, coaching each other and practicing in teams on life-like dolls.
Turek circulated around the room, giving pointers to all the students.
"Feel for the tip of the breastbone," he said, as the students worked with the dolls. "Put the heel of your hand right on the breastbone, and place your other hand on the child's forehead."
Donna Huber noted the differences between adult and child CPR, saying the procedures were fairly similar.
"The differences are the number of thrusts and the number of breaths," said the Westminster mother of two, who has acertificate in adult CPR.
Huber laughed as she said the dolls were a lot more cooperative than her young children would be.
"You don't want to panic in a crisis situation," she said. "And you won't panic, if you know what to do."
Karen Brown of Upperco, a health aide at a summer camp, said preparation is the key to dealing with any emergency.
"In a crisis situation, what you have learned and practiced comes to you quickly," she said. "Even if you have no children ofyour own, CPR is something you should learn. You could be the only one who knows how to help if a child is choking or has difficulty breathing."
Other participants in the class had similar reasons and reactions. Jill Hardee, mother of two small children, bought a home with a pool in Finksburg and wanted to be prepared.
"You never know when you might need CPR," she said. "What if a child fell in the pool?"
For Betty Maffett of Mount Airy, CPR certification is a job requirement. She begins work in a day-care center in September, where shewill be responsible for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Debbie Braman offers day care in her Westminster home, where she is licensed to care for six children.
"I have been very lucky so far and never had a real emergency, but this is something I should not have waited to learn," she said. "I feel a lot more confident knowing what to do in an emergency."
Before everyone went home with a certificate, they had to pass a skills test as well as a 25-question multiple-choice quiz.
Fran Miller, community health education coordinator at Carroll County General Hospital, said the need for pediatric CPR training is great.
"Accidents cause more deaths among children than all illnesses combined," she said. "Parents as well as those who supervise children should learn emergency procedures."
The American Heart Association developed its initial pediatric CPR course in 1987, emphasizing a safe environment, she said.
The hospital offers the course, which focuses on theory and safety, several times a year. The guidelines are similar to those of the Red Cross.
"Our whole goal is prevention,"said Miller. "Create a safe environment for children and you will avoid accidents."
Miller often asks the women in her class to empty their pocketbooks and identify items that could be dangerous to small children. She said they are often surprised when they realize aspirin, loose pennies or safety pins could harm curious children.
In the CCGH classes, participants learn how to deal with respiratory and cardiac arrest and how to dislodge objects from a choking child.
"You can't always depend on a call to 911," she said. "You may have to handle an emergency before trained personnel can get there."
Miller said a full range of people take the class, including teen-agers who baby-sit.
She often meets former students who tell her how the classhelped in an emergency. Many say they don't know why they waited so long to learn CPR.
The next Red Cross class will be from 9 a.m. to3:30 Saturday at 419D Malcolm Drive, Westminster. Cost is $22.
The hospital offers the class from 6:30 to 10 Aug. 19 and 22. The fee is $20. Registration is required for both.
Information: 857-6935 for the hospital, or 848-4334 for Red Cross.