If someone collapsed in front of you, could you or others around you help the victim before emergency personnel arrive? Other than calling 9-1-1, studies show less than 30% of bystanders take action or know what to do in such a medical emergency.
Suzanne Majors Davis of Austin learned that firsthand. She was at an Austin hotel recently when a man collapsed and the reaction she says was alarming. "It was very alarming. In fact, it was haunting. I keep thinking about that room where there were people all around and staring and no one did anything," Davis said.
After someone called 9-1-1, Davis took action. She performed CPR techniques she had learned from her son, a Boy Scout. They were compressions to the man’s chest. She did it to the beat of the Bee Gees song, "Stayin' Alive." Davis recalled, "Someone was holding his neck back and I was pumping to Stayin' Alive and looking to see if he would arouse."
Lis Wise is with the American Red Cross of Central Texas and teaches CPR in Austin. Wise says, "Starting those compressions, making sure to maintain the blood pressure up to the brain is very, very important. We teach: check, call, care. Check the scene, check the person, send someone to call 9-1-1 and then begin providing care.”
Wise explains some life saving techniques as she performed CPR on a mannequin. "I have the breathing barrier in place. I'm going to pinch the nose shut and tilt the head back to reopen the airway,” Wise stated.
As she breathed into the mouth of the mannequin, the chest expanded. Wise said, “Right. And that's one of the things you want to watch out for because that confirms that the breath is going in.”
Wise continued with the procedure. “At this point, I don't see any signs of bleeding and I'm going to go straight into CPR chest compressions, right into the center of the chest, hand over hand. The heel of your hand is literally right over the center of the chest. And I'm going to compress down about two inches,” Wise said.
How long do you do the chest compressions? Wise says, “We do 30 of these at the rate of about 100 compressions a minute." She says to repeat the movements until emergency personnel arrive.
Davis repeated the movements during her moment of crisis and helped save the man's life. While they waited for emergency personnel to arrive, Davis talked to the man. "So I said to him, talk to me. Stay with me. Can you tell me your name? And he told me his name. And at that point I heard EMS coming. I was so grateful," Davis recounted.
That story had a happy ending but that’s not always the case. So the push for more people to learn CPR in Texas is getting stronger. Legislators and their staffs at the State Capitol took a CPR training class recently.
Kyle Janek is a former State Senator and State Representative from Texas. He’s also an anesthesiologist who helped with the CPR classes. Janek says, "By unleashing this Army, not just here in the capitol but all around the state through the American Heart Association and other training events, it's our hope that so many people out on the street will be able to help a bystander who has collapsed."
The American Heart Association is also pushing state lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it a requirement that high school students learn CPR by the time they graduate.
It's a skill Suzanne Majors Davis used to save a life. That night she called the hospital to check on the man she helped. She says the man’s son answered the phone in the hospital room. Davis says, "He passed the phone to his dad and said, ‘The woman who saved your life is on the phone.’ It was quite gratifying to hear that. Kind of awesome. At the same time it was a scary moment."
Scary, yes but minutes in her life she will never forget. And neither will the man whose life has returned to normal.