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Unique Holiday Gift Idea

As the holidays roll around, everyone’s looking for that special gift – something meaningful, worthwhile and of great value. Whether you’re shopping for new parents or grandparents, there’s one gift that works for every member of your family: the gift of CPR.

Considering 73.9 percent of adult cardiac arrests happen in the home, chances are your family members could save someone you all know and love. Every second counts in cardiac arrest, if performed immediately, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival from an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

The AHA’s Community Training Kits make a great gift choice, particularly the CPR Anytime program, which allows your gift recipients to learn basic lifesaving skills in about 20 minutes from the comfort and privacy of their own home or workplace.

Have soon-to-be or new parents in your life? Consider the Infant CPR Anytime Training Kits, which makes it possible for anyone to learn how to perform infant CPR and provide infant choking relief. This kit also makes a great gift for grandparents, babysitters, nannies and anyone who wants to learn lifesaving infant CPR and choking relief skills. The kit is co-branded with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Consider Abby’s story. While in a dressing room trying on clothes, she heard a call come over the store’s radio saying there was someone who didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing. Because she knew CPR, Abby raced to the scene expecting to see an elderly person, but instead found a mother and baby. Abby sprung into action and saved the baby’s life. “You never know when an emergency is going to happen and no one’s going to be there to help. I think anyone could do CPR, could learn that skill. It just gives you a great feeling inside knowing that someone else is living out the rest of their life because of you,” she says.

Another great option is the Adult & Child CPR Anytime Training Kits, which allow anyone to master the basics of adult Hands-Only CPR, child CPR with breaths, adult and child choking relief and general awareness of automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

Justin’s story really drives home the value of this course. On a Friday afternoon, 15-year-old Justin was playing in the backyard with a group of friends when a lacrosse ball hit him on the chest, in the exact location and at the exact millisecond of his heart’s rhythm, causing a condition known as commotio cordis. Thankfully, the kids called for help and a neighbor ran over to start CPR, which kept Justin’s blood circulating to vital organs until paramedics arrived. “This was such a freak accident, it could happen to anyone,” Justin’s mom says. “If our neighbor didn’t know CPR, Justin wouldn’t be here. I encourage everyone to take the time to learn CPR. You could save a life, maybe the life of someone you love.”

The AHA designed both of the kits mentioned in this story as self-directed, 20-minute personal learning programs and as an all-in-one solution that includes everything needed to complete high-quality training anywhere. Skills are taught with the AHA’s research-proven, practice-while-watching technique, which allows participants to practice on a manikin while observing a demonstration of the skills on video. A bilingual (English and Spanish) DVD and user guide come with every kit.

Your gift recipients can refresh their skills as often as needed and even pass along the kit to others once they’re finished with it, so it truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

 

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Be Thankful for Your Family: Thanksgiving Holiday Safety Tips

 

As you get together with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, ensure it’s a happy – and healthy! – time of year filled with positive memories. Here’s how.

Healthy Holiday Swaps in the Kitchen

This season, try the AHA’s five easy swaps in the kitchen. Don’t worry, all the flavor and festivity are still in the mix!

  • Use herbs and spices such as rosemary, rather than salt, on your turkey.
  • Choose lower sodium broth or stock to make gravy.
  • Whip up some mashed potatoes with low-fat or skim milk and soft tub margarine.
  • Season veggies with herbs and bake, grill or steam them – instead of frying.
  • Swap equal parts no-sugar-added applesauce for butter when baking.

Be Prepared for Minor Injuries: Cuts, Scrapes & Burns

With a houseful of rowdy kids or adults packed into a kitchen, you’ll want to keep overall safety top of mind. That means being well-prepared for minor injuries, including cuts, scrapes and burns.

Have a first aid kit on hand. Include adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes along with tape, gauze, latex gloves, antiseptic wipes, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream.

Also include some basic over-the-counter medications including ibuprofen, acetaminophen and antihistamines, as well as a thermometer.

Stash an ice pack or two in the freezer, or have the instant version on hand, for those unexpected bumps and bruises.

Take a Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED Course

Did you know that 74 percent of cardiac arrests happen in the home? Wondering what to do with a multigenerational houseful of family in the days before or after Thanksgiving? What better time to take a Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED course than over the holidays when everyone’s in town and together.

Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED is available in two different training methods, blending learning and classroom training. Both are geared toward anyone with little or no medical training who wants to be prepared for an emergency in any setting.

One more option to consider for the family: Heartsaver Virtual, a convenient training kit and app solution allows you the flexibility to take courses and complete a virtual hands-on skills session with an instructor 100% online.

Download the Free AHA CPR & First Aid App

Available for download on Apple Store or Google Play, the AHA has developed an array of apps dedicated to bringing science right into the palm of your hand. Check out the free CPR & First Aid App so you can be prepared to act in an emergency.

The app’s key features include easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for adults and children ages 10-plus, so get the kids involved too. Use it to learn CPR and first aid for some of the most common emergencies to occur not just during the holidays, but year round. The course covers choking relief, bleeding and bandaging, heart attack, seizures, Hands-Only CPR, CPR with breaths and much more. The fun and informative format includes video, animations quizzes and games for the whole family.

 

 

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A Heartsaver In the Community

By Gina Mayfield

On a crisp mid-September evening in Forest Lake, Minnesota, Kristina Thill was helping with the annual fall festival at the church where she grew up. After she finished her shift at the kids’ game booth and started chitchatting with a friend, she noticed an elderly church member stumbling out of the building.

“We were like … okay, well, that was kind of weird. He doesn’t really look like he’s doing too well. So we walked over to him and asked if he was okay, and he said thatsomething didn’t feel right. That’s when he collapsed,” Kristina says. She and her friend caught him as he fell to the ground and stopped breathing. They yelled for help and a police officer rushed over and began to administer CPR. At that point, Kristina handed her phone to a bystander and asked them to call 911.

“Because I work at the school and church, I knew where the AED machine was. So I ran and grabbed it,” Kristina says. “When I initially got back to the scene, the police officers stopped CPR to help with the AED. I kind of pushed them back and said, ‘Nope, I’ve been trained. Continue with CPR, and I’ll get him hooked up.’”

Luckily for everyone involved, Kristina had taken a couple of American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED classes from a local provider called Heart & Soul. Her most recent class was just three weeks prior to this event and the instructor, Cindi Gervais, knew to go over where to find the AED, even though some in attendance already knew where to find it.

“I hooked him up to the AED machine, and it said to administer a shock,” Kristina remembers. “We pushed the button and brought him back. He started coming around and talking.”

By that time the EMTs had arrived, assessed the situation and requested a helicopter to take the man to a major hospital. Kristina’s mom works for the church and does all of the hospital and home visits, so she was able to get in touch with the hospital to learn the man had survived. He bounced back quickly and continues to volunteer at the church and school.

The training Kristina received not only gave her the knowledge she needed to play an important part in the rescue, it gave her the confidence she needed to help save a life.

 

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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.