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CPR training encouraged after Buffalo Bills player's cardiac arrest

Adrian Midgley

A traumatic cardiac arrest of a Buffalo Bills football player on national television is shining a light on one way to save a life: CPR.

When Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin collapsed after a play in the first quarter of Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, medical personnel quickly recognized that his heart had stopped, and started administering CPR. Russell Silverman, a cardiologist with St. Joseph’s Health in Syracuse, said that action was lifesaving.

"The fact was, the arrest was recognized very quickly, and CPR was applied, which will probably go a long way to his survivability," Silverman said.

And the numbers bear that out according to Douglas Sandbrook, EMS Education Director at Upstate Medical University. Only about 1 in 10 people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

"Every minute that a person is in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival goes down 10% without the benefit of CPR or chest compressions," Sandbrook said.

CPR can keep the heart pumping and blood flowing to vital organs until the electrical shock of a defibrillator can restore the heart to a normal rhythm. But, the rate of bystander CPR in North America is estimated at between 39 and 44 percent. Improving that is critical to better survival during an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, which Silverman said accounts for 70 percent of cardiac arrest cases.

"You could be in a mall," Silverman said. "You could be at a football game. You could be out to dinner. You can be anywhere when something catastrophic occurs and if you’re not trained, the likelihood of that person surviving decreases significantly.”

The American Heart Association is pushing “hands only” CPR for laypeople. Board member and Crouse Hospital cardiologist Joshua Harrison says the idea is to keep it simple.

"Hands-only CPR we’re finding is very effective, especially in a short term, until emergency services arrive," Harrison said. "We find that by encouraging hands-only CPR, more people will be comfortable performing CPR."

Information on local CPR classes can be found on the Heart Association website, Heart.org.

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