How to save a life: The importance of CPR
Local cardiologist and community leader Willie Lawrence, MD, saves lives each and every day. Named the American Heart Association’s 2011 Physician of the Year, Lawrence works tirelessly to advocate and fulfill the association’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Lawrence also is an expert at performing CPR, but he says you don’t have to be a physician to know how to save a life.
“It’s a simple technique that everyone should know,” Lawrence says.
Earlier this year, while attending the “White House Community Leaders Briefing on Cardiovascular Health” in Washington, Lawrence found himself saving a life outside hospital walls for the first time. The night before the briefing, he was at dinner when he overheard a commotion at another table in the restaurant. Lawrence turned to see a woman in her 60s slumped over in her chair. Recognizing that she was unconscious and in trouble, he quickly went over and found her pulseless and unresponsive.
Lawrence immediately began performing “hands-only” CPR while someone else called 911. As he began CPR, he called out for an automated external defibrillator, or AED. Unfortunately, no one in the restaurant knew if they had one and, if so, where it was located. He continued performing the hands-only technique and, miraculously, the woman regained a pulse and became responsive and alert.
“Saving someone’s life in this situation is what I’d call a random act of kindness — we do this so much in the hospital, on people we don’t know,” Lawrence says. “What’s important for family members and friends to realize is that I did something — hands-only CPR — that’s really pretty simple. No one else at this woman’s table knew CPR and that was a potential tragedy in the making.”
CPR dates back to 1740, yet even today, most Americans don’t know how to perform it. Given properly and immediately to sudden cardiac arrest victims, CPR can save lives; however, 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to administer CPR or their training has lapsed. This statistic could hit close to home, which is where 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur.
This June, in honor of National CPR Week, which is June 1-7, the American Heart Association is calling on all Americans to learn how to give hands-only CPR by watching a one-minute video at handsonlycpr.com. Once you have learned CPR, give five people you care about the power to save lives by equipping them to act quickly in a crisis.
And don’t be afraid; your actions can only help. If you see an unresponsive adult who is not breathing or not breathing normally, call 911, and push hard and fast on the center of the chest.
You also can download a free app for your phone to walk you through the simple steps of performing CPR.
The American Heart Association still recommends CPR with compressions and breaths for infants and children, and victims of drowning and drug overdose, or people who collapse due to breathing problems.
Story contributed by the Kansas City Chapter of the American Heart Association