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The Lifesaving Impact of CPR Education: How a Stranger's Act of Kindness Changed One Man's Fate

The Lifesaving Impact of CPR Education: How a Stranger's Act of Kindness Changed One Man's Fate
Cardiac arrest survivor Justin Stroh. (Photo courtesy of Justin Stroh)

In the early months of 2021, Philadelphia experienced heavy snowfall, covering the city in a thick white blanket. As the snow continued to fall, Justin Stroh and his wife, Bess, both in their 60s, took turns shoveling the snow outside their suburban home. One snowy Monday in February, Justin, driven by an inexplicable urge, ventured out alone to clear the sidewalk, unbeknownst to Bess. Little did he know that this decision would lead to a life-altering event, one that underscored the vital importance of CPR education in the community.

Tragically, Justin collapsed in front of their home, far from Bess's sight or hearing. Lying lifeless in the snow, he was destined to face a dire fate. However, his life took a remarkable turn when Jennifer Kennedy, a passerby on her way to pick up her son from school, spotted Justin lying motionless. Reacting swiftly, Kennedy pulled over, maneuvered through a snowbank, and called out to him. Receiving no response, she dialed 911 and immediately began performing CPR. As a trained cardiac surgical nurse, she knew precisely what actions to take.

Kennedy's actions marked the first in a series of events that would ultimately save Justin's life and preserve his brain function. Tragically, nine out of ten people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital do not survive. Even among those who are resuscitated, many succumb to brain and organ damage caused by oxygen deprivation during the cardiac arrest. However, the odds improve significantly for those who receive CPR from a bystander, doubling their chances of survival.

In Justin's case, a heart attack triggered his cardiac arrest. Heart attacks are more prevalent during periods of heavy snowfall, when the physical exertion of shoveling places additional strain on the heart. In this instance, the heart attack was a consequence of a blocked artery. Emergency medical professionals were able to restore Justin's heartbeat, but his road to recovery would prove to be arduous.

Justin spent approximately three months in the hospital, enduring a grueling journey that included a month-long medically induced coma and a bout with pneumonia resulting from the insertion of a breathing tube during his ambulance ride. Along the way, he encountered kidney problems that necessitated temporary dialysis. Just as he began to regain his strength, an additional challenge presented itself: Justin contracted COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, Bess, who had remained faithfully by his side in the ICU, also fell ill.

Temporary cognitive impairments posed yet another hurdle for Justin to overcome. Upon regaining consciousness, he had to relearn basic functions such as speaking and walking. Memory loss became another unfortunate consequence of his traumatic experience. Justin's recollections ceased at a visit to a museum in New York with his daughter, which had occurred two weeks prior to his collapse.

Though Justin may appear outwardly normal, he continues to grapple with a myriad of challenges. Simple tasks leave him easily fatigued, and his ability to articulate thoughts occasionally falters. Consequently, he was compelled to retire from his career as a research scientist. Now, his focus is on reconstructing his life story and finding ways to transform his ordeal into something positive, such as engaging with organizations like the American Heart Association.

Justin remains forever grateful for the individuals who played a pivotal role in saving his life: Kennedy, the woman who performed CPR, and the unwavering medical professionals who refused to give up on him. These individuals, including a speech therapist and a team of respiratory specialists, left an indelible mark on Justin's heart. Bess acknowledges the significant impact they made, saying, "They invested in him and believed in him. That makes a huge difference." Justin cherishes the memory of those extraordinary people, especially Jennifer Kennedy, whose quick thinking and knowledge of CPR breathed life back into him. While he may never fully comprehend the depth of his gratitude, he expresses it in small gestures, like sending Christmas cookies to Kennedy every year.

Justin's remarkable story serves as a poignant reminder of the immense importance of CPR education within communities. By equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge to respond during emergencies, we can empower more heroes like Jennifer Kennedy and increase the chances of survival for those in need. Together, let us strive for a society where everyone has the opportunity to learn CPR, fostering a community of life-savers who can make a profound difference when seconds count.

Source: Learn, Enjoy, and Save Life. Healthforce Training Center offers CPR Training and certifications such as Basic Life Support (BLS), Advance Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advance Life Support (PALS), CPR AED, Pediatric First Aid CPR AED, and First Aid CPR AED.

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