When Sonya Vezmar heard the shout – “Call 911!” – she immediately jumped into action.
Vezmar, who teaches CPR for the American Heart Association, heard the yelling while celebrating a friend’s birthday party at a Cleveland bowling alley on Halloween night.
She quickly ran over to see if she could help. A man in his 50s was slumped over in a chair, was pale and was not moving. While she knew exactly what to do, the man would be the first person Vezmar ever tried to save with CPR during a real emergency.
“I know I teach it every day, but until I found myself in the position to actually have to perform it, I think I may have doubted myself to do it right,” she said. “I trusted in what I’d been taught.”
Vezmar asked the man if he was OK and tapped his shoulders. After getting no response, she asked a couple men nearby to move the man to the floor. She undid his shirt and immediately started chest compressions. After five compressions, the man started blinking his eyes and color came back to his face. She put a jacket under the man’s head and waited with him until EMS arrived.
“This experience has deeply touched me and just reinforces the importance of what we do day in and day out,” Vezmar said.
Her quick reaction also reinforces the importance of people jumping in to help. Bystander CPR can double, even triple, a person’s chance of survival. Yet fewer than half of sudden cardiac arrest victims receive CPR, according to the AHA. About 326,000 Americans suffer an emergency medical services-assessed cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year.
The importance of knowing CPR is why the AHA works to pass laws making the lifesaving skill a high school graduation requirement and trains more than 17 million people a year worldwide. The AHA also has released a Cardiac Emergency Response Plan as a free resource.
The bowling alley was a perfect example of why it’s important for schools, businesses and other public places to understand what to do in emergencies, Vezmar said. There was no emergency response plan in place, and the staff were unaware of whether an automated external defibrillator was available or where it might be.
“Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time,” Vezmar said. “You never know when you will have to use CPR. It is something that everyone should know how to do.”