Kelly Corcoran: Learning hands-only CPR saves lives

Kelly Corcoran

It was the last day of Steve Corcoran's business trip to Florida, and the last thing he was thinking about was CPR.

That was until he heard the fear-filled screams of two women standing over their female friend, who had suddenly collapsed and was unconscious.

The next steps Corcoran took were crucial, and they turned out to be the life-saving actions the collapsed woman needed.

My father learned CPR over 50 years ago while in Cub Scouts. When I became the American Heart Association training center coordinator for Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill., I began hounding him with techniques, statistics and hands-only CPR.

While I am sure conversations about CPR are not the most intriguing, he actively listened, and it paid off. The first thing he did was made sure someone was calling 911, and then he began compressions.

He did not think his actions would help, but after 30 compressions or so, he heard gurgling, and the woman began trying to breathe. My father was so amazed. He just sat there and held her hand until the fire department arrived.

The woman's brother sent my father a card a few days later, thanking him for saving her life. He also went on to explain how many different lives were affected by the selfless actions of my father.

While this story has a happy ending, most stories do not. Less than 8 percent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest actually survive. This statistic is daunting, but we all have the power to change it.

Hands-only CPR has been shown to increase survival rates by as much as three times what they are now. This technique is very simple: call 911, and begin chest compressions.

Make sure to perform chest compressions a minimum of 100 compressions per minute, and push a minimum of two inches into the depth of the person's chest.

Hands-only CPR differs from conventional CPR. It reduces the number of steps before the victim receives compressions and is easier to explain to a layperson who is not trained in CPR.

When a person collapses or is found unconscious and is not responsive, hands-only CPR should be implemented.

Most fears surrounding CPR are breaking ribs or not performing compressions properly. I asked 10 people whether or not they would prefer having broken ribs or not surviving sudden cardiac arrest, and all 10 people agreed that a few broken ribs were preferred.

Also, as long as you push hard and push fast in the middle of the victim's chest, their chances of survival triple.

There is no minimum age suggested to be able to perform CPR. Studies have actually found that children as young as 9 can learn and retain CPR skills. CPR is all about body strength, not age.

Each and every one of us has the ability to save a person's life. If my father had not acted so quickly, the Florida woman most likely would not have survived.

Kelly Corcoran is the American Heart Association training center coordinator forMemorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill.

-- Be Healthy Springfield (Ill.)