CPR Classes | Nurse Was Training For Triathlon When Her Heart Stopped Mid-Swim

Alicia Bravo helped her community raise money for a chest compression system, and a year later it saved her life. (American Heart Association)

When Alicia Bravo saw the EMS service in her childhood hometown was holding a 5K race to raise money for a mechanical chest compression system, she signed up right away.

As an ER nurse, Bravo knew the importance of quality CPR. She also recognized the challenges faced by volunteer-fueled rural emergency services.

Bravo ran the 2016 race in Cambridge, Wisconsin, and won her age group. Better yet, the local emergency service raised enough money to pay for the machine.

On the morning of July 1, 2017, Bravo was again visiting her parents' Wisconsin home. Several relatives went for a morning run around the nearby lake. Bravo got a late start so decided to swim across the lake and run back. The dual training made sense because she was preparing for a triathlon.

Alicia at the finish line of a triathlon in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Alicia Bravo)

Bravo began swimming with her dad, sister, son, brother-in-law and nieces joining alongside in a boat that also served as a buffer from other lake traffic.

A few minutes into the swim, her dad, Bill Decker, heard Bravo call for help. He threw her a flotation device. When she didn't move, he shouted to his daughter Andrea Olson to jump in.

Olson quickly pulled her sister to the boat, carefully keeping her head above water. Decker quickly hoisted his unconscious daughter into the boat.

Having served on a ski patrol for 35 years, Decker was trained in CPR. So, he knew exactly what to do: He checked her breathing. Sensing none, he screamed for someone to call 911 and immediately began CPR. Olson, meanwhile, steered the boat back to shore.

"My training just kicked in," Decker said. "All I knew was that I need to keep trying to keep her alive until she could get to the next level of care."

Alicia Bravo's father, Bill Decker (right), saved Alicia's life by performing CPR on her until an EMS crew arrived. (Photo courtesy of Alicia Bravo)

At the dock, a patrol boat officer, Bravo's husband and a firefighter neighbor who