Hands-only CPR offered because less people are coming to aid of cardiac victims

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Gretchen Cliburn is a financial planner and married mother of two who five years ago got up one morning to take part in a half-marathon race.

"My husband refused to kiss me good-bye that morning because I had eaten peanut butter and he doesn't like peanut butter," Gretchen said. "So I said to him as I left the house, 'You will regret not kissing me' and ittle did I know how true that would actually be that day."

True because Gretchen collapsed at the 9-mile mark of the race, going into cardiac arrest.

"I was fortunate that day," she recalls. "There were angels in the race around me, strangers that did not know me. They called 9-1-1 and started performing CPR and because of that I am standing here today able to talk to you."

Gretchen was attending the Hands-Only CPR class being offered free to the general public at OTC. It's an important event to the American Heart Association because 90 percent of those in the same situation as Gretchen die because no one comes to their aid.

Hands-Only CPR requires no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It consists of just two steps.

1.) Calling 9-1-1
2.) Pushing hard and fast with the heel of your hand right above the sternum.

"The heel of the hand goes into the center of the chest," explained Lindsey Crystal, one of the instructors at the class. "The other hand goes directly on top and you push (on the inflatable training mannequin) until you hear the clicking sound. You push at the rate of 100-120 beats-per-minute. We actually use the song by the Bee Gees 'Stayin' Alive' to set the rhythm."

Obviously a lot of people are afraid of getting involved in a life-and-death moment, worried about everything from braking the victim's rib to getting sued.

"One thing we know for sure is that if you don't do anything that person is going to die," said Sonya Vezmar, a CPR manager with the mobile unit that tours all over the country. "We do have Good Samaritan laws and you're covered by that because you are trying in good faith to save someone's life."

"Ribs heal and it's better to have a broken rib than a heart that doesn't work anymore," added Sal Ruiz-Esparza, who was taking a refresher course because his 5 year-old son Benny was born with heart problems.

Sal pointed out that the need to know CPR could come anywhere, anytime.

"You never know," he said. "It could be in the cafeteria, a drive-in, a park. Somebody might just happen to need that assistance and if you're properly trained you could help somebody prolong their life."

It's also important to know that age doesn't matter. All high school students in Missouri are required to learn Hands-Only CPR and a 3rd grader who learned the technique used it on his mom at a shopping center.

"She went into cardiac arrest and was out," Vezmar said. "He performed CPR on her until an ambulance arrived and saved her life. He's a 3rd grader!"

Officials point out that having certified people administer traditional CPR that includes breathing resuscitation is preferable and it's critical if the victim has been down long enough to lose oxygen to the brain.

"So if you were to walk into a room and are not sure how long that person has been down then you definitely need to do the traditional CPR which is 15 chest compressions and two breaths until help arrives," Vezmar said.

But if you are there when the person goes down?

"Hands-on right away," Vezmar said. "It keeps that oxygen flowing and that really is the most important part of CPR."