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A Trained, Prepared Staff… A Saved Life

By Gina Mayfield

In Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, sits the Lake Charles plant of LyondellBasell, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world. On one hot August morning, Safety Engineer Chris Chaisson went about his usual routine. “There was nothing really special what was going on that day. We were just making our rounds through all the security stuff, just checking things, seeing how people were doing and if there were any issues,” he says.

That’s when the call came in: “Man Down!” As Chris raced to the scene, he got word that EMS had already been dispatched, so he started delegating important tasks to those he encountered along his way: Go to the road and flag in the ambulance. Take the keys and open the guard gate. Guide the ambulance to come straight in and back up to the scene.

“As soon as I walked up to the patient, everyone backed away. It was a strange feeling like I had some kind of specialized training that they didn’t,” Chris says. “That was a little different than what I would have expected. I would’ve expected to help, not be expected to lead.”

As the crowd parted, Chris saw a CPR and AED-trained maintenance supervisor using an AED to analyze the heart rhythm of the patient, one of the site’s millwrights responsible for maintaining the plant. The AED provided instructions on how to proceed. About the same time that EMS arrived, so did Dawn Hinton, the on-site nurse practitioner, and Amanda Hebert, the security account manager for the site.

“EMS allowed the three of us to rotate as we continued to provide CPR,” Chris says. “They believed we were doing a good enough job, where they didn’t even take over.”

Eventually, the AED stopped recommending shocks. “We got a good rhythm on him, got him stabilized and into the ambulance,” Dawn says. At the hospital, it was no surprise when doctors determined the patient had gone into cardiac arrest. The next day they implanted stents to correct a left main artery almost 100 percent blocked. After a few days, the hospital released the patient to a very appreciative wife.

“The beautiful thing about this scenario is the amount of response we had,” Chris says. “We probably had a dozen people who were involved overall.”

Left to right: Amanda Hebert, Chris Chaisson, and Dawn Hinton

He offers a valuable reminder. “These medical emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. Having the ability to respond is everything, like in our situation, as soon as we walked up everyone drew back. They expected us to do something about it. So you might find yourself in a situation in which you’re viewed as the leader of the response. You want to be prepared.”

The plant offers CPR training on a regular basis for its electricians, supervisors and others who want lifesaving education. “The most important thing is having multiple trained, responders on site and an AED that’s readily available,” Chris says. Within less than three minutes, employees had the AED on the patient and were performing CPR.

“Those cycles of giving compressions and resting were so important to us because that allowed us to have the bench strength to recover. Providing quality CPR takes a lot of energy. The ability to have three to five people able to rotate in and out made all the difference,” Chris says. “We had all the help we could ask for. It was a picture perfect response.”

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‘Father’ of CPR: Guy Knickerbocker, Who Helped Pioneer a Lifesaving Technique, Dies at 89

As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, Guy Knickerbocker, PhD, was one of three researchers who developed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as  CPR, which has saved countless lives.

Guy Knickerbocker, PhD

He died June 21, 2022 in Narvon, PA. He was 89.

Knickerbocker was an electrical engineer and doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University where he collaborated with William Kouwenhoven, PhD, also an electrical engineer and professor, and James Jude, MD, a cardiac surgeon and resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, to develop the prototype of the first portable external defibrillator in 1957.

A year later, Knickerbocker made a crucial observation while working with Kouwenhoven and Jude. He discovered that pressure on the chest during defibrillation experiments in animals produced an arterial wave form and a temporary rise in blood pressure. This observation paved the way toward a new technique, which is now known as CPR.

The team published their research breakthrough on the value of external cardiac massage in providing blood flow to vital organs for people in cardiac arrest in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1960.

“Anyone, anywhere, can now initiate cardiac resuscitative procedures,” the researchers noted in the landmark paper. “All that is needed are two hands.”

From left to right: Drs. James Jude, William Kouwenhoven and Guy Knickerbocker are regarded as the “Fathers of CPR.” 

The brilliant trio would come to be regarded as “the fathers of CPR.”

In the early 1960s, Knickerbocker also collaborated with others to produce the training film titled, “Pulse of Life,” which was viewed by millions and popularized CPR.

Throughout his career, he published over 30 articles about electricity and the human body, according to his obituary.

William Montgomery, MD, FAHA, who serves as the coordinator for the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR), said Knickerbocker will always be remembered for his incredibly important work in the laboratory and in training activities.

Montgomery first met Knickerbocker at an AHA National Conference on CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) in 1985 when Knickerbocker was among the first group of “Giants” in resuscitation science honored by the AHA for their landmark contributions to CPR and emergency cardiovascular care.

Left to right: Drs. James Jude, Guy Knickerbocker, Peter Safar and James Elam were among the first group of “Giants” in resuscitation science honored by AHA in 1985 at the organization’s National Conference on CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC).

Montgomery said in recent years, Knickerbocker and his wife, Joan, attended the Citizen CPR Foundation’s Emergency Cardiac Care Conference (ECCU), where he met with cardiac arrest survivors who were saved because of his breakthrough research.

“Those survivors were so happy to meet with him in person and individually and take pictures ‘with the man who invented the technique that saved their lives,’ Montgomery recalled. “These were very warm and emotional meetings and Guy was always very gracious with everyone.”

It was during the ECCU events where Dianne Atkins, MD, chair of the AHA ECC Committee, would meet with Knickerbocker.

“He was always a very pleasant man and willing to have his picture taken with everyone who asked,” Atkins remembered.  “He seemed quite humble about his accomplishments with respect to CPR, but also was quietly proud of them.”

Atkins said it is now known that immediate CPR, usually delivered by a lay rescuer, is a primary determinant of survival with good functional outcome. Yet, she said less than 50% of patients in cardiac arrest in the U.S. receive CPR before EMS arrives.

Dianne Atkins meets with Guy Knickerbocker at the ECCU event in 2017.

“The AHA and the ECC need to commit to better understanding how to engage the lay public in understanding the need for CPR, improve the percentage  of those who receive lay rescuer CPR and to ensure that our teaching methods are the most effective for providing high-quality CPR,” she said.

 

Knickerbocker and his research team fundamentally changed the way in which patients with cardiac arrest are treated, said Comilla Sasson, MD, vice president of ECC Science and Innovation at AHA. To continue his legacy, she said that the AHA is committed to teaching CPR to everyone.

“The American Heart Association is dedicated to making sure every person knows how to perform CPR, and can help save a life,” Sasson said. “And that all people, regardless of where they live or what healthcare system they are treated in, will have an equitable chance for surviving a cardiac arrest event.”

Another major way that Knickerbocker’s legacy can endure is for AHA and ILCOR to continue to support innovative research, said Robert Neumar, MD, who co-chairs ILCOR.

“We need to  advocate for greater investment in resuscitation science and expand the pipeline of young scientists entering the field,” Neumar said.

Montgomery said Knickerbocker will always be remembered as being one of the original scientists and investigators that discovered modern CPR as we know it today.

“Even though he has passed, he will aways live in the hearts and minds of all providers of CPR and survivors as a ‘Giant’ in resuscitation and the person responsible for discovering the technique that ‘saved my life,’ Montgomery said.

 

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Cardiac arrest survivor’s efforts to install AEDs in her community helps save a man’s life

Local cardiac arrest data informed Lynn Blake’s strategy to determine AED locations that contributed to a timely save

Last July, Doug Schwartz was enjoying dinner with his girlfriend, Shelly Belknap, and a friend at eTown restaurant located in Edwards, Colorado when he began to feel faint, and he suddenly suffered a cardiac arrest.

Shelly, who is an oncology nurse at Vail Health, was sitting next to Doug and immediately started CPR. Stephen McGaffick, an employee at eTown who is also a Beaver Creek Ski Patrol member, took turns with Shelly and performed CPR on Doug.

Fortunately, an automated external defibrillator (AED) was located about 100 yards away  outside in a heated box attached to a lamppost in the Riverwalk, which is Edwards’ downtown area.

The AED that was used to help save Doug’s life was in this heated box attached to the lamppost.

A restaurant patron named Megan went to go grab the AED. When Megan returned with the AED, Shelly and Steve applied the device, which delivered two shocks by the time the paramedics arrived.

The paramedics took over and helped revive Doug. The restaurant patrons, who anxiously waited for an update on Doug’s condition, erupted into applause once they heard that he was alert.

Doug was transported by ambulance to Vail Health Hospital and then transported by helicopter ambulance to Denver that night. He spent five days in the ICU at Medical Center of Aurora and was then discharged.

Placing AEDs in key locations can make the difference between life and death. A person’s chance of survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent for every minute that passes without defibrillation.

The AED used to help save Doug’s life was one of more than 100 devices that had been strategically placed throughout Eagle County, Colorado about seven years ago thanks to the efforts of a local resident named Lynn Blake, a strong advocate for public AED implementation programs and quality improvement initiatives for cardiac arrest outcomes.

“I was flooded with emotions for a man I never met,” Lynn said when she learned that Doug’s life had been saved thanks to CPR and the use of the AED.  “He was the reason I devoted so much of my life to implementing these programs, it was all for this man and his family.”

Lynn’s journey with advocating for the AED program in Eagle County traces back to her own personal story as a cardiac arrest survivor.

Surviving a Cardiac Arrest Spurs CPR and AED Advocacy Work

The start of 2007 was a whirlwind for Lynn. She got married on Feb. 3 and went on her honeymoon two days later. As soon as she returned from her trip, she began a new job in Vail, which is also located in Eagle County.

On Feb. 14, 2007, Lynn, 27, was on the second day of her job when she suddenly experienced cardiac arrest. One of Lynn’s co-workers, Sue Froeschle, whom Lynn hadn’t even met yet, immediately started CPR while another employee called 911 and ran to get help from the Vail Fire station that was across the street. Eagle County paramedics were also nearby; they quickly arrived and used a defibrillator to deliver three shocks to her heart.

(Left to right): Lynn Blake holds her baby, Thomas, with her rescuer and friend, Sue Froeschle

Lynn survived the incident and now has an implantable pacemaker defibrillator. She finally met Sue a year later when the American Heart Association gave an award to the first responders who helped save Lynn’s life.  After the event, Lynn and Sue became very close. Her son is even named Thomas Froeschle Blake.

“There were so many coincidences and ironic details that allowed me to survive –  I felt so compelled and convinced that my life was saved for a reason,” Lynn said.

Lynn didn’t know anything about cardiac arrest before the incident. She started researching to learn more about the condition. She also became an American Heart Association CPR instructor so that she could teach others how to save lives.

Throughout those early days of investigating, Lynn learned that cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Yet, she was confounded that she couldn’t find any data on incidences and outcomes anywhere.

“No one could tell me who experiences cardiac arrest in Eagle County or even Colorado,” she recalled. “I could not find any information that was truly validated. Everything was an estimate.”

It wasn’t until she read a book titled, “Resuscitate,” that she learned about the Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES), a quality improvement program that works with EMS communities to collect data and measure out-of-hospital cardiac arrest outcomes.

After connecting with CARES and learning more about the program, she worked with local health authorities and volunteers to secure funding so that Eagle County could participate in the registry starting in 2014. She then worked with officials to get the state of Colorado to participate in CARES in 2019.

Lynn said it’s imperative to track how bystanders and EMS are responding to cardiac arrest to identify the necessary intervention strategies that will optimize the chain of survival.

“I can’t say ‘you need to learn CPR and have an AED’ if we don’t know if people are performing CPR and using AEDs,” she said.  “It’s impossible to improve resuscitation outcomes if you don’t know what you’re improving. Data collection allows not only the community to figure out how citizens should be engaged, but also gives agencies a way to measure their performance. Quantitative analysis of cardiac arrest is the linchpin to successful resuscitation, and it must happen for the conversation to continue.”

Using Data to Guide AED Placement in Eagle County

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is a global public health issue experienced by 3.8 million people annually. Only 8% to 12% survive to hospital discharge. Early defibrillation of shockable rhythms is associated with improved survival, but ensuring timely access to defibrillators has been a significant challenge.

Public-access defibrillation is the use of AEDs by the public to facilitate CPR and early defibrillation before professional responders arrive. A recent International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) scientific statement commissioned by the American Heart Association evaluated the barriers to public-access defibrillator use and early defibrillation. The statement titled, “Optimizing Outcomes After Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest With Innovative Approaches to Public-Access Defibrillation,”also identified the opportunities for new approaches to public-access AED program implementation.

Public-access defibrillation has saved many lives. Unfortunately, public-access AEDs still remain underused. The devices are used in less than 3% of OHCAs.

However, people  who experience OHCA with a nearby AED are three times more likely to receive bystander defibrillation and twice as likely to survive as those without an AED nearby, according to the statement. Unfortunately,  AEDs  are  rarely  close  enough  for timely retrieval. The issue is further compounded by the fact that even when a registered AED is near a cardiac arrest incident, most go unrecognized and unused. The ILCOR statement calls for using innovative approaches to improve public-access defibrillation in the future by optimizing AED availability, reliability and usability through coordinated, data-driven, regional strategies.

When Lynn worked with officials in various Eagle County communities to place the more than 100 AEDs, it was important to them that the devices were easily accessible and not placed behind locked doors like they had typically been in the past.

However, she said there was some initial reluctance among entities to place public defibrillators, especially outside and unsecured. She said the entities feared liability, theft, people using them unnecessarily, and freezing temperatures.

Through education efforts, Lynn helped the entities understand the crucial need for AEDs by sharing statistics and the fact that theft is fairly uncommon. She worked to ensure that the AEDs were placed outside in heated boxes attached to lamp posts where they’d be available 24/7.

Additionally, the ILCOR statement discusses the value of geographic cardiac arrest data to inform AED placements such as density maps of OHCAs that plot incidences on a map that can pinpoint higher-risk spots for cardiac arrest and prime locations for AEDs.

Using data from CARES, Lynn said AEDs were placed in the most common public locations for cardiac arrest emergencies such as healthcare/nursing home facilities, schools and libraries throughout the county. Then, the most highly-trafficked public places were identified using Eagle County’s geographic information system and Google maps. Lynn said it wasn’t realistic to place a unit in every small business, plus the lifesaving devices needed to be accessible 24/7.

“This started the outdoor cluster approach, installing heated cabinets to light posts in the most centrally accessible points to multiple establishments,” she said.  “Deploying one unit for numerous places significantly diminishes the cost and increases accessibility. “

Lynn said she worked with her neighborhood of EagleVail to install defibrillators at major residential and golf/Nordic course intersections because CARES data suggests that residences are the most commonplace for cardiac arrests to occur.

“Hopefully, someday in the near future, defibrillators will be as common as microwaves in homes,” she said. “Until then, we must continually strive for the ubiquity of these lifesaving devices. There is so much more that can be done, but working from the grassroots up is very difficult. Federal mandates and more awareness must occur to achieve the availability needed.”

‘It Took a Village to Save Doug’

Left to right: Doug Schwartz and Lynn Blake at the coffee shop.

In December, Lynn and Doug met for the first time at a coffee shop.

“I was very grateful,” Doug said. “That is what I tried to communicate to Lynn in my meeting. It is strange to sit across the table from somebody who played a part in saving your life.”

He said he feels very fortunate with the way the events unfolded last July from receiving high-quality, immediate CPR from Shelly to Megan grabbing the AED nearby.

“I don’t know how you could draw up a plan any better with the timeliness of my save,” he said.

For Lynn, it was a dream come true to meet Doug whose life was saved with the help of an AED program that she and other volunteers developed after she received a second chance at life. It’s also a testament to the chain of survival that improved once the community started tracking and measuring data to make changes that save lives.

“It took a village to save Doug,” she said. “There are so many components that have to take place to save one life.”

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Sheriff deputy credits his CPR training for helping to save a car accident victim’s life

By Gina Mayfield

On a Friday afternoon, just an hour or two before he’d clock out for the weekend, Deputy Sheriff Jason Roy patrolled the outer perimeter of the Berkshire County Jail in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

“I happened to have our county dispatch radio on and was just listening to calls come in,” Jason says. “On one particular call, I heard the address given: 465 Cheshire Road. I was at 467 Cheshire, literally seconds from that location.”

Then came the details: One vehicle accident. Airbags deployed. Unconscious operator.

Jason immediately headed in that direction, hoping to do what he could — maybe help direct traffic — while the fire department, EMTs and police worked the scene. But he arrived to find three bystanders pulling a man from a car. He was unconscious but breathing. Jason put his car in park as he directed the bystanders to roll the man on his side, in the recovery position.

That’s when everything changed.

“He’s not breathing anymore,” yelled the bystanders.

They rolled the man on his back and ripped open his shirt knowing that an AED was on its way.

“He’s gray and there’s no pulse,” Jason says. He begins compressions and thinks to himself, I’m going to give you compressions until you’re a pancake or you come back. You’re not going to die, you’re going to live. You’re not going to die on me right here. This is not how it’s going to happen. There’s no way.

“I’ve never done this before, responded to this type of situation where I’ve had to do CPR. This is my very first time,” he says. But it’s what he has done that makes all the difference. “I’ve had 21 years of CPR training. Every year all of our employees at the Sheriff’s Office, whether we’re uniformed or civilian staff, have the same exact CPR training, the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support program.”

The fire department and EMTs arrive and begin administering shocks using the AED.

“I’m standing just beyond them, and I look up and see the Assistant Deputy Superintendent of our training, then I see our Sheriff behind him,” Jason says. “They saw the training in action. This is what we do on paper. This is what we do in the classroom with our CPR training, manikins and training AEDs. All of the scenarios that we practice and drill for is so that at moments like this we can have the best possible outcome.”

That’s what they got in that moment, the best possible outcome. As they loaded the man on the ambulance, Jason quickly popped his head in and asked an EMT, “Is he breathing?” Not only was he breathing, the EMT said, but they had gotten a pulse. Off they went to the hospital.

The Fire Chief said to the Sheriff, “Wow, because of your officer’s response, those early compressions and CPR, that’s why that man’s breathing right now. That’s why we got him back.”

In retrospect, Jason remembers that during his CPR classes the instructors always said, “When you actually have to respond a call, you’re going to revert to your training. What you’re doing here in the classroom — what you practice; what you read; the physical, real application tests you take with the manikins and the AED — you’ll flip that switch and do it.”

But after 20-plus years of sitting in a classroom and hearing that, Jason began to wonder, What are the chances of this happening to me?

But when his time came, he learned the instructors were right. “It just clicked. There was never any doubt. I knew what to do. I just flashed back to the training,” he says.

In the days that followed the congratulations poured in, some from coworkers and colleagues who had listened to the radio call in real-time. Then came a formal Commendation from The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office that read, in part, “Your vigilance, situational awareness and adherence to your training undoubtedly saved the life of this individual.”

“I did what anybody else who would have heard that call or driven by that scene would have done if they were a Sheriff’s employee. I’m confident they would have pulled over, even if they didn’t have a radio, even if they were off duty or just a civilian,” Jason says. “That’s what we do at the Sheriff’s Office here. Every one of our employees could have done, and is trained to do, what I did.”

Visit our Hands-Only CPR webpage to learn the two easy steps to save a life and check out the AHA Basic Life Support page to learn more about this course.

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Son saves father’s life with CPR

Pictured above: Lucas and Robert Weme

By Gina Mayfield

On a Minnesota summer day, as the Weme family played in the backyard, 47-year-old Robert Weme stepped outside to join his wife, children and grandchildren. As he sat on the deck, his 20-year-old son, Lucas, noticed something about his dad seemed off.

“I went over and asked him what was going on, and he said he had passed out in the kitchen. At that point, I was getting kind of worried,” Lucas says. “Then he passed out on the deck and started to seize.”

Lucas’ mom and sisters ran over and made sure the grandkids were okay as they called 911. “My dad didn’t have a pulse, so I just started CPR on him. I did about 30 compressions, then he started to come back to,” Lucas says.

Robert answered questions and seemed awake and alert, and just as everyone thought he was out of the woods, everything changed. “Shortly after the first responder got there, my dad ended up going back into seizure fit. We couldn’t find a pulse,” Lucas says. After another round of 30 compressions, then another, Robert regained consciousness then went back out again. “I did more compressions and then they slapped the AED on him and shocked him,” Lucas says. “He was in V-tach.”

V-tach is short for ventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm disorder caused by abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart causing a very rapid heart rate. It can last for just a few seconds, or much longer, and cause cardiac arrest.

EMTs got an IV established and headed straight for St. Mary’s hospital in Duluth. Lucas and his mom were never far behind and reached the ER shortly after the ambulance. “One of the drivers actually came out and talked to us. She said my dad was pretty stable throughout the whole transport, he was talking, alert and oriented,” Lucas says. “Then they led us back into the ER.”

What the ambulance driver may not have known was that his otherwise healthy, 47-year-old patient biked or lifted weights for about an hour every day, including the day before this incident – and was a paramedic himself. And Lucas was a pre-med student hoping to follow his dad’s footsteps into emergency medicine. He had been a licensed EMT for two years, from the time he was 18, and currently serves with Carlton Fire and Ambulance. That’s where he learned CPR.

When Lucas and his mother got back into the ER, Robert had something he wanted to say to his son. “He said that he loved me and was very proud of what I did. He said he wouldn’t be here without me doing what I did,” Lucas says.

Robert was right. The survival rate for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is around 11 percent.

A few days later after being diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy, Robert left the hospital with a defibrillator and a family with its sense of humor still firmly intact.

“Even though I work on an ambulance too, my dad was actually my first patient to code. I guess he wanted to have the glory of being my first one,” Lucas says with a smile.

Join a Nation of Heartsavers today at cpr.heart.org/heartsaver. #CPRwithHeart

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Zumba student saves the life of her instructor after she suffers a cardiac arrest in class

 

Adela Alvarez and Nan Martin

By Marissa Alanis

Nan Martin hadn’t planned on attending the Zumba class that her friend and instructor, Adela Alvarez, taught at Hope Community Church in Rogers, a small town in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area.

But wintry weather on Jan. 9, 2014 led Martin’s personal trainer to cancel their appointment. Undeterred by the weather, Martin didn’t want to stay at home. She headed to the Zumba class instead, which was the first time she attended Alvarez’s Thursday night class. Martin usually went to her class on Monday nights.

Alvarez, who was 49, taught at least five Zumba classes each week in addition to working as a high school Spanish teacher. Halfway through the class, Alvarez decided to give the students a water break.

“She is leaning against the wall, taking a sip of water and she almost looked right through me and she just said, ‘I don’t feel well,” Martin recalled. “She just collapsed.”

Martin, who had renewed her AHA CPR training a week before, immediately checked Alvarez’s pulse while another student ran to call 911. Martin detected a faint pulse and gave Alvarez two rescue breaths.

Martin checked her pulse again. There was no pulse. The dispatcher, who was on the phone by this time, told Martin to start compressions and remained on the line to guide  her.

“She would say ‘Speed it up’ or  ‘You’re going too slow’,” Martin recalled. “She helped me keep my pace up, which was great.”

As Martin did CPR, she sang the song Stayin’ Alive, which has the right beat for performing chest compressions. When performing CPR, rescuers should push on the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.

“It’s so weird, but I wasn’t scared,” she said. “I was amazed at the adrenaline – the whole adrenaline rush. I knew what I had to do and it’s so different when you’re doing CPR on a manikin versus when you’re doing CPR on someone you love.”

Martin performed CPR for about 25 minutes before emergency help arrived at the church, which is located in a rural area. First responders from about three to four nearby communities arrived. The paramedics shocked Alvarez’s heart five times before rushing her to the hospital.

In the first week of hospitalization, Alvarez had kidney failure and liver failure. She started to become weak. Doctors had to use an ECMO machine to help her heart. But  Alvarez experienced complications and lost circulation in her right leg. Doctors had to amputate her leg above the knee.

It was about 45 days after her cardiac arrest that Alvarez started to come out of her coma.

“When they take me out of the medicines for the coma, they were able to do a CAT scan and the doctors came out and literally say to my husband, ‘It’s a miracle. Her brain has zero damage. It was as if nothing happened,” she said.

Alvarez spent about three months in the hospital. She attributes her faith in God, prayers from family and friends and gratitude with helping her survive and recover.

“I know that God was there all the time with me,” she said. “Even though it wasn’t easy because in the recovery, I remember feeling a lot of physical pain. …I was so grateful to be alive. That was my thing – be grateful. I’m alive. I say ‘It’s ok. I don’t have a leg. I can’t live without a heart. It’s okay if I live without a leg.’

Pictured above: Adela leaving the hospital.

Later in 2014, Alvarez received the Zumba Fitness Inspiration Award at the Zumba convention in Orlando. A nurse who was also a Zumba instructor was inspired by Alvarez’s story at the event that she helped lead efforts to teach CPR to Zumba instructors. CPR is now taught to instructors at the annual convention.

Alvarez is now an AHA CPR instructor who teaches BLS and runs a CPR training business. She teaches once a month at the high school where she previously worked as a Spanish teacher.

“I love it,” she said.  “I share my story in every class. After I share my story, it changes the point of view of the people in the class.”

Pictured above: Adela, center,  is now a CPR training instructor.

Martin has followed Alvarez’s footsteps and now is a Zumba instructor. Martin said Alvarez is never far from her thoughts.

“I really miss dancing with her,” she said. “Number one – she is an amazing woman. Even before all of this happened, Adela is just one of those shining lights who walks into the room and you can feel it come off of her. Her classes were amazing.”

Martin said she urges the public to take a CPR training class because it can save the life of someone you know or love.

“I just can’t emphasize enough –  take it,” she said.  “A lot of people say,’ I’ll never need that.  I’ll never use that.’ Never say never because you know never know when a 49-year-old  fit woman is going to drop in front of you.”

This National CPR and AED Awareness Week, learn more about how you could save the life of a loved one or someone you know by learning CPR today.

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Teen saves her best friend’s life with CPR a day after learning the skill in school

Azarria Simmons and Torri’ell Norwood

By Gina Mayfield

Best friends since seventh grade, Torrie Norwood, 16, and Azarria Simmons, 17, had just spent a typical Saturday night out when they decided to head home. As they drove back to their hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, another car plowed into them. After the impact, Torrie opened her eyes and realized the car had been pushed into a tree right smack in the middle of someone’s front yard.

Then the screaming started. “It’s gonna blow!” yelled the gathering crowd as the pickup truck went up in smoke.

Torrie’s door wouldn’t open, but her window had been knocked out during the crash, so she had an obvious escape route.

“Everyone ran down the street because we all thought the car was going to blow up,” Torrie says. “But then I turned around, and I didn’t see Azarria running with us. I had to run back to the car to see if she was still in there — and she was.”

Things didn’t look good.

“She was unresponsive in the back seat,” says Torrie. “I had to drag her out because she wasn’t moving or breathing. There was glass and blood everywhere.”

That’s when the adrenaline rush kicked in.

“I don’t know how I did it, how I opened that door. It was crushed. I just became strong for a second,” she says.

That strength came in handy. In a moment of clarity amidst the chaos, Torrie instructed a bystander to call 911 and got to work.

“My focus was only on one thing. I started CPR,” Torrie says.

After 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths, Azarria began to show signs of life. Just then, the paramedics rolled up ready to rush Azarria to the nearest hospital.

“I just kept asking them if she was going to be okay,” remembers Torrie.

Fortunately for both girls, the Athletic Lifestyle Management Academy at their Lakewood High School offers a Medical Skills class taught by longtime American Heart Association CPR Instructor Erika Miller. She teaches Basic Life Support, along with Heartsaver First Aid and Bloodborne Pathogens After CPR. Torrie had earned her certification just the day before this accident happened.

Erika Miller teaching class

“You never know when an emergency will occur,” Erika says. “In all of my years of teaching, I have never had an experience quite like this one. I never imagined a student would finish the course, take her written and skills tests and in 24 hours have to perform CPR on her best friend.”

All of the Pinellas County Schools use the AHA training tools, including 16 public high schools (three with medical magnet student programs), and offer training for bus drivers, coaches and staff.

“I tell my students that it is one thing to know life-saving skills, but it’s another thing to be comfortable helping in an emergency,” Erika said.  “At the end of the day, I want my students to not only know what to do, but to be willing and able to help, if needed.”

Sounds a lot like Torrie. After the ambulance took off with lights and sirens, Torrie spent hours trying to reconnect with Azarria, who was finally found over FaceTime sporting a fresh set of stitches above her eyebrow.

“If Torrie hadn’t performed CPR, it would have been a different story, because the medics got there too late,” Azarria says. “What Torrie did didn’t surprise me. She would have done that for anyone. That’s just the type of person she is.”

Still sore from the accident, the girls returned to school on Monday. By that point, word of the accident had started to make its way through the halls and Torrie had gone from being the “quiet girl nobody knew” to a hometown hero, a title she’s not quite comfortable with yet. In a display of great humility, Torrie hadn’t told a soul about the accident, not even Erika who eventually heard the news and playfully confronted Torrie.

“I can’t believe you came and sat in my class and didn’t even tell me anything! I’m just so glad you’re okay,” Erika said. “I come to school every day and I wonder if my students are actually listening to what I’m saying. I’m just glad you heard me and used what you learned in the real world.”

That’s an important takeaway. “I feel like CPR training should be a requirement in schools,” Torrie says. “A lot of stuff we learn, we don’t use anymore once we graduate. But CPR is something we can use for the rest of our lives.”

This week is National CPR and AED Awareness Week, spotlighting how lives can be saved if more Americans know CPR and how to use an AED. Learn more about how you could save the life of a loved one by learning CPR today.

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Nurse helps saves her husband’s life after he suffers a cardiac arrest at home

Ric and Ann Goheen

It was a typical Sunday morning for Ann and Ric Goheen on April 5, 2020 at their home in Novato, a city located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ann read a book in bed while her husband, Ric, who has sleep apnea, slept next to her as he wore his CPAP mask.

Ann looked up from her book when she heard air escaping from the edge of Ric’s mask. She poked his side and told him to check his mask. But Ric didn’t respond. She ripped off the mask and saw his lips were blue. Ann, who is a nurse and used to work on a cardiac floor, did a brief pulse check on him and realized he was in cardiac arrest.

“We were just really lucky that I was awake and noticed and of course that I was trained to do CPR,” Ann recalled.

She immediately started CPR. Then, in a whirlwind, Ann stopped to call 911, chased their dogs MicMac and Rio out of the bedroom and unlocked the front door so that paramedics could enter when they arrived.

Ann used all of her strength to move Ric from the bed and lay him on the floor so she could continue to perform CPR.

The paramedics arrived quickly as they happened to be a block away when they were alerted about the incident.

A fireman stayed with Ann while the paramedics shocked Ric six times before there was a return to spontaneous circulation to his heart. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital where he was intubated.

On the third day of his ICU stay, Ric was extubated. The nurse brought a phone into the room and put Ric on speakerphone so Ann and their three sons could talk to him.

“I love you all,” Ric told his family as they cried on the other end.

Ric spent nine days in the hospital and then was transferred to another hospital where he had an automated implanted cardio defibrillator implanted in his chest. He didn’t suffer any neurological issues.

Two months later, the Novato Fire department held a ceremony to recognize the first responders who treated Ric and to honor him. Ric wore a blue shirt with a green EKG rhythm over the words, “Annnd…I’m back.”  

Ric gave a few remarks at the ceremony where he shared how much his family meant to him and told the paramedics how much he appreciated their lifesaving actions.

“I’ve always told my whole family how much I love them from the very start,” he said as he looked at the first responders. “And what you guys did is that you gave me another chance to tell them again how much I love them and how important to me they are. And you guys are my family also. I love every one of you. I appreciate you all very much.”

A year later, Ric, who previously restored antiques for dealers, continues to do well. He works on his garden every day.

As Ann reflects on her husband’s cardiac arrest, she said she was absolutely not ready for her husband to pass away. Ann, who is a former CPR instructor who received CPR training from AHA, said she wanted to try to do everything she could to ensure that he survived that day. She hopes others will feel compelled to also take action and start CPR if somebody they know or love suffers a cardiac emergency.

“The important thing that I want to pass along is to just try, “ she said. “Even if it’s scary or even if you don’t think you know how to do it, just try because you can make a difference.”

If you are called on to give CPR in an emergency, you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love: a child, a spouse, a parent or a friend. Hands-Only CPR has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR for cardiac arrest at home, at work or in public. Learn the two easy steps of Hands-Only CPR by watching a short training video.

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Bystander CPR helps save airport employee’s life

By Gina Mayfield

It was one of those mornings. Every parent knows the drill: You’re running behind, then a child decides he’s not on board with the usual morning routine, one thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re three hours late for work.

That was Patty Hill’s experience one hot August morning. Shortly after she finally arrived for her shift at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she stepped aside to take a phone call from her mother. Minutes into the call, Patty heard a cry for help. Then another. At that point, she quickly said to her mom, “I’m gonna call you right back,” and said to herself, Let me see what’s going on.

What was going on was the manager of the food court, Ms. V, as she’s affectionately known around ATL, was laid flat out on the ground. She had hit her head as she fell on the concourse and was completely unresponsive. At first it appeared as though a young woman was administering aid, but upon closer inspection, Patty realized that wasn’t quite the case.

“I looked at her as she was checking for a pulse … with her thumb,” Patty says. At that point, she knew she had to intervene. “I was like, uh-uh. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Step back, baby.’ Once I got down there and used my two fingers to find there was no pulse, I started chest compressions immediately.”

Because of airport security requirements, Patty had routinely carried a see-through bag to work, one that clearly displayed her bright orange resuscitation mask pack. A coworker had once jokingly asked her, “Why do you carry that?” Patty responded with her usual quick wit. “You never know, I might have to give you all mouth to mouth one day, and I ain’t putting my mouth on y’all,” she laughed.

As it turned out, the very same coworker who had questioned the contents of Patty’s purse happened to be standing feet away from Patty as she administered chest compressions. “Go get my purse,” she instructed between compressions. “Go get that orange thing out of my purse.”

Being at a busy airport full of passengers, it wasn’t long before a doctor and nurse came running over. The doctor used that orange mask to deliver breaths, while Patty and the nurse took turns delivering chest compressions.

Then the doctor turned to Patty and asked the million-dollar question: Do you know where to find the AED machine? As it turned out, Patty had been standing right next to it during that phone call with her mother.

Eventually Patty’s manager came looking for her. “I didn’t know you were gone saving a life!” she said to Patty. In fact, that’s exactly what she was doing — the paramedics showed up about 20 minutes later.

Soon after, Patty had a chance to catch up with Ms. V at the hospital where she was being treated for cardiac arrest. “I met her kids, I met her family, I prayed over her. She is good,” Patty says.

Then she reflected on her own experience. She had received her CPR certification while training to be a medical assistant, but worked nights at the airport while completing an unpaid internship. “When I graduated as a medical assistant, I was always asking myself what I was doing at the airport. It was for a reason. God had me there for that particular day, August 1, 2018. I will never forget that,” she says.

Today, Patty is an instructor who teaches American Heart Association curriculum to her community. “I never thought that I would be saving somebody at the airport. I never thought I would take those skills that I learned to help save someone,“ she says. “It’s good to know CPR. Even kids. I encourage kids to learn as well. I think everybody needs to learn.”

In the end, on that particular hot August morning, it turns out Patty wasn’t late at all. She was exactly where she was supposed to be, exactly when she was supposed to be there. “Now that I look at it, it was right place, right time,” Patty says. “Everything was right on time.”

Join a Nation of Heartsavers today at cpr.heart.org/heartsaver. #CPRwithHeart

 

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Workplace CPR training helps hotel employee save a guest’s life

By Gina Mayfield

On a crisp day in early autumn, the Hampton Inn in Greenville, North Carolina, was quiet during the afternoon lull between check-in and check-out periods. Sandi Parker manned the front desk while using the downtime to untangle a problem with tech support over the phone. That’s when it happened.

“I had a guest come running down the hall just yelling. I didn’t know what was going on. She got to the desk and said, ‘There’s a man unresponsive on the fifth floor in the hallway,’” Sandi remembers. She immediately ended her call with tech support and placed a different kind of call for help, this time to 911. Then she ran to the backroom to grab the emergency kit. “It was scary because I didn’t know what situation I was going to walk into,” she says.

Sandi bolted up the five flights of stairs to find a couple of hotel guests frantically trying to render aid. “It just looked bad. The man was completely unresponsive. His body was gray. I thought he was dead. I really did,” Sandi remembers. She immediately began CPR while praying for the man’s life between counts.

Sandi had remained on the phone with the 911 dispatcher who counted out chest compressions, making sure Sandi kept pace. “After 20 minutes, you start getting tired. You just don’t realize it. You start slowly slowing down. But the dispatcher was like, ‘Nope, nope, you’ve got to speed back up. One, two, three … .’ She was great helping me through that,” Sandi says. “Once you get started, you’re locked in. The adrenaline kicks in and you just get in the zone.”

In time, fire and rescue, the local fire department and finally the EMTs converged on the scene. The man eventually regained consciousness before being transported to the hospital.

Sandi returned to the front desk to find a large contingent of the hotel’s management company ready to support her. In a true display of Southern hospitality, they reached out to the medical center to ensure the man had survived and had been cared for by family. That was the last they heard about him. “I have wondered how he is,” Sandi says.

What she doesn’t have to wonder about is the role she played in those crucial first few minutes before professional help arrived. The hotel provides certain personnel, including those working the front desk like Sandi, with CPR training. On a regular basis, they clear out a meeting space, bring in an instructor and get certified. “To be honest, I’ve had CPR training for years,” Sandi says, “but I never thought I’d have to use it.”

Join a Nation of Heartsavers today at cpr.heart.org/heartsaver. #CPRwithHeart