Hands-only CPR offers lifesaving technique

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

A split second. That’s all it took for one 19-year-old to go into cardiac arrest. What happened next is still a blur to Matt Tamburri, but he later found out he went into a coma for two weeks.

“I was playing football and, unfortunately, I went down. I had a seizure and then that lead to cardiac arrest,” he said. “I was dead on the spot. My heart was stopped for 15 minutes, so I was pronounced dead for 15 minutes. I was blessed by a priest and everything.”

Tamburri said the reason he’s alive is because in that park, on the day of his accident, a stranger immediately reacted and for over 10 minutes gave him CPR until an ambulance arrived.

“Thankfully for him, he saved my life with that hands-on CPR,” he said.

The American Heart Association is going around the country teaching people how to do hands-only CPR. Every year, over 350,000 Americans go into cardiac arrest outside the hospital and experts say 90 percent of the cases don’t make it.

“The number one reason people don’t perform hands-only CPR is they’re afraid they’re going to make a mistake. What we learned here today is any CPR, even if it’s not perfect, you’re going to dramatically increase their chance of survival,” said Mary Rachel Gardner, one of the performers.

By having people perform CPR immediately after cardiac arrest, experts say you can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

“The point is to help keep the blood flow,” said Gardner.

There are two important steps. Gardner says first have someone call 911. Then push hard and fast on the center of the chest at 100 to 120 beats per minute. There’s an easy way to remember the rate.

“We have a fun song we do to ‘Staying Alive’. It’s like, ‘help, help, help, help, saving lives, saving lives,’ and it’s to that rate that everybody will remember,” she said.

“It did make me more confident,” said trainee Susan Snyder. “Now I feel like if somebody has a cardiac arrest that I can at least try and help.”

“Hopefully everyone that was here will share with five people. And anyone that’s watching, you just need to push for 120 beats per minute. Think of the Bee Gees’ song,” said Tamburri.

As Tamburri participated in the exercise, he shared some thoughts with the crowd.

“This event right here means the world to me, so thank you all for doing this. And you never know, one day you might save someone’s life,” he said.

Because just like Matt, we don’t know what tomorrow, next week or next year may bring. But by teaching more people what to do, he says you’re increasing the chance that someone survives — someone like him.