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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.