The key to ‘Stayin’ Alive’


After my dad had to give up plumbing due to his health in the early 1980s, he began a second career as an Emergency Medical Technician, drawing on his experience as a medic in the U.S. Army decades before.

I always admired his gumption; at nearly 60 years old, having to go to Camden and complete some pretty rigorous coursework at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy wasn't easy, especially since we had only one car between myself, my brother and my dad at the time. I did a lot of walking that summer.

When you're in the medical field, your training never truly stops. That was true for him, especially when it came to getting his certification as a CPR instructor. That was how I first met Annie.

Annie was known by a lot of names -- Resusci Anne, Rescue Anne -- but to us, it was always Annie, a mannequin designed to let you hone your skills at chest compression and mouth-to-mouth breathing, known as "rescue breathing."

I never had "official" certification, but got pretty good at it, although I never cared for the chapped lips you got from whatever the heck material she was made of, and I "broke" her ribs the first couple of times. You knew how well, or poorly, you did based on a printout she produced.

Times have certainly advanced, but the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the case of cardiac arrest remains the same.

February is designated American Heart Month, and this year the American Heart Association has the CPR Challenge going.

Promoted by the Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin, who was resuscitated after going into cardiac arrest on the field during a game earlier this year, the public is being asked to take three simple steps to help save lives: Learn CPR. Give. Share.

According to the AHA's website, it only takes 60 seconds to learn hands-only CPR. The link is available on the AHA website,

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person goes into cardiac arrest when their heart stops beating. Because blood is no longer being pumped to the rest of the body, including the brain and lungs, death can occur within minutes without treatment.

CPR uses chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps, compressions that help keep blood flowing throughout the body.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, according to the CDC. A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked. A person having a heart attack is still talking and breathing. "This person does not need CPR -- but they do need to get to the hospital right away. Heart attack increases the risk for going into cardiac arrest," the CDC says.

Here's a sobering fact: The CDC says nine in 10 people who have a cardiac arrest outside the hospital die. Nine in 10.

Here's another sobering fact: CPR can help improve those odds, the CDC says. If it is performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, CPR can double or triple a person's chance of survival.

According to the CDC, certain people, including people in low-income, Black, and Hispanic neighborhoods, are less likely to receive CPR from bystanders than people in high-income white neighborhoods. Women may also be less likely to receive CPR if they experience cardiac arrest in a public place.

You don't have to be specially trained to perform CPR, but you do need education, the CDC says, and offers these three steps to follow:

• Call 911 right away. If someone else is nearby, ask them to call. Grab an automated external defibrillator -- commonly called an AED -- while you start CPR. Many public buildings have them on hand.

• Start CPR by pushing down hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 pushes a minute. "Let the chest come back up to its normal position after each push," the CDC says. The AHA recommends timing your pushes to the beat of the classic Bee Gees tune "Stayin' Alive." Again, this method of CPR is called "hands-only" and does not involve breathing into the person's mouth.

• Continue giving CPR until first responders arrive or someone with formal CPR training takes over.

I don't have access to an Annie anymore, but I need to brush up on my skills. Your life may depend on it.

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