NIH CPR Instructor Egebrecht Ends 33-Year Career
During her 33 years at NIH, Juli Egebrecht has touched the hearts of thousands of smart people, and quite a few dummies too. A teacher of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) use to NIH employees since 1985, she will retire this month.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people by doing this work,” said Egebrecht, director of basic life support training at NIH. “I see them out and about and some will say to me, ‘You look so familiar!’ I just have to say ‘...and 1 and 2 and 3’ and it’s a lightbulb moment.”
Anyone with a medical license of any kind—doctors, therapists, nurses, other health care providers—must have active CPR certification. In the early days, Egebrecht recounted, CPR class lasted all day and clinicians were required to take half-day recertification classes annually. “So I really got to know the people here,” she said. Now, all CPR classes last a half day and renewal is required every 2 years.
“I’m a realist. I know why people are here—they have to be here,” said Egebrecht. “But when you think about it, most sudden cardiac arrests occur at home. It may not be your home; it may be a neighbor’s home…And people may call upon you while they’re waiting for the rescue squad to come. Part of my training is to prepare you for those instances as well as working as part of the [medical] co-team.”
It’s hard to know how many lives Egebrecht’s instruction has helped save over the years, but one story stands out in her mind. An NIH doctor administered CPR on a child who nearly drowned at the resort where he was vacationing. The doctor had just taken Egebrecht’s class a few days earlier.
The best part of her job? “It’s the possibility of saving someone’s life, when it comes right down to it.”
Originally from Wisconsin, Egebrecht moved to the Washington area in 1969, the same summer, she noted, that football coach Vince Lombardi left Green Bay for Washington, turning her into a dual Packers and Redskins fan.
Egebrecht started teaching Wednesday night CPR classes at the YMCA in Silver Spring before coming to NIH, where she worked part time on a per diem. This schedule allowed her to stay at home part-time with her daughters, Ronni and Julia. She would later transition to NIH full time.
Egebrecht was grateful to NIH for allowing her to take extended leave in 1996 to fulfill a dream opportunity, serving as an equestrian event judge at the Olympics in Atlanta. She always loved horseback riding and had previous horse trials experience as a jump judge at the local, state and national levels.
Another of Egebrecht’s long-time interests is international travel. Some of her trips to Europe were to visit exchange students her family hosted over the years.
“Knowing those kids and being here at NIH, seeing folks from all over the world come through class, it really expanded the world for me,” she said. “Everybody here is your family and it’s fun meeting branches of the family you didn’t know existed.”
Egebrecht has been busy going through mounds of stuff accumulated from decades of living in the same house with her husband, Ron, who died of cancer 2 years ago. Once retired, she plans to sell the house and move, with her dog Ben, back to the family’s house in Wisconsin. The home, which has been in her family for generations and is used by extended family as a retreat for holidays and vacations, backs onto a spring-fed glacial lake. She also looks forward to getting back to Lambeau Field for some Packers games.
Her children are grown, and she smiled recollecting how her granddaughter Amanda, 20, has visited her at work since she was a baby, coming with her mom, Ronni, who sometimes helped clean the mannequins. Egebrecht proudly gave Amanda her first CPR training card at the age of 10.
Reflecting on her career, Egebrecht is grateful to have spent a lifetime doing work she loved.
“We are one whole human family, and anything we can do to help folks survive, even something as common as a heart attack that goes into cardiac arrest, is something that adds to keeping your family intact.