Heart attack survivors say CPR saves lives

Attendees listen to instructions on how to perform CPR.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Some people pressed the chest on the floor, while others set up their mannequins on tables.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Brittany Roos was enjoying a family trip to New York when she experienced an event that changed her outlook on life.

She was at a restaurant when she suddenly fell out. Quick action by two optometrists who just happened to be on the scene saved her life after they performed CPR on her.

After eight days in a New York hospital, Roos discovered that the cardiac arrest that she suffered was the result of long QT syndrome. She also found out that it is hereditary.

Roos was at the Civic Center Saturday, wearing a T-shirt with the word “survivor” across the chest. She told her story to anyone that would listen. 

“Heart disease does not discriminate,” she said. “It can happen to anybody,” advocating for the Press the Chest event that she was attending.”

Personnel with Leon County Emergency Medical Services advocated for the event to be held annually since 2010, according to Major Sally Davis, Community Engagement Director for Leon County EMS. The event was cancelled the last two years by the pandemic.

More than 400 people turned out for the CPR training last Saturday.

“It’s such an easy life-saving technique that takes a matter of minutes to learn,” Roos said.

Leon County EMS has trained more than 15,000 residents with hands-on instruction on how to do CPR correctly, according to a statement released by the county. It also said that Press the Chest is the reason the county has a 58 percent cardiac arrest survival rate. The national average is 18 percent.

A crowd started gathering almost an hour before the event was scheduled to begin. The CPR training began with instruction from an EMT. Each person was given a CPR kit with an instruction DVD and a mannequin.

The audience was encouraged to use the mannequin to press the chest down about two inches for about 100 presses in a minute. The Bee Gees hit song, “Staying Alive,” played in the background.

Attendees also saw a video demonstration and heard from Russ Marsh, a local cardiac arrest victim whose life was saved by CPR.

 “Without CPR, I would not be here today,” said Marsh. “I am proud that the County has made it a priority to train our community in a skill that can save someone’s life, like it did mine.”

The press the chest process was repeated a few more times, each press sending off a clicking sound.

 “The interest has been great,” Davis said. “Every year we get 300-400 people that attend. Obviously the community understands that they need to learn CPR.”

Erica Ross and Reshai Dicky brought their young sons, Ross for the second time.

“I came a couple years ago,” Ross said. “I’m just coming to refresh. I just want to go over it again to make sure it’s fresh in my mind.”

Ross said the event was especially important to Blacks because of health disparities and common disease that plague people of color.

“In the case that something ever did happen to me or anyone in the family,” she said, “I want him to know that after he calls 911 he can do something until they (paramedics) get there to take over.”

Dicky said her son learned about calling 911 before he began grade school. Knowing the importance of pressing the chest is the next logical step for her son, she said.

“Since you’re aware about 911,” she said, “let’s further your knowledge and learn how to do CPR.”


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