The idea of cardiac arrest scares the shit out of me personally since heart disease runs rampant in black and brown communities. I can name several relatives, off top, who should’ve put down the samosa years ago. But cardiac arrests don’t just happen from clogged arteries. They can happen during a sports game when a baseball hits a chest (92 percent of student athlete deaths are from cardiac arrest, apparently) or from a drug overdose. This means young people, too.
Millennials have been left out of the conversation, says Holly Anderson, cardiologist and director of education and outreach at Perelman Heart Institute at New York presbyterian Hospital. She’s trying to remedy that with her HandsOnly CPR campaign. She tells me that a few years ago, she had a 28-year-old colleague in her office who was playing touch football with his friends when one of them collapsed. “We were all afraid to do anything,” he told her. It took eight minutes for EMS to get there and he died. "It didn't need to happen like that," she says.
She then tells me about Ashley Newman, a dancer at Juilliard who went into sudden cardiac arrest in the middle of rehearsal in 2016. One of the other dancers performed CPR on her until the EMTs got there. She survived, returning to dance a year later.
You don’t need to be certified or formally trained, she says, and if you just use the chest compressions to pump blood for a person (if they have gone into cardiac arrest and their own heart cannot) until the paramedics come, you will save a life. “You can’t wait for EMS. The person will die,” Anderson tells me. I’m clearly her ideal audience because at this point in the interview, I’m freaking out. How do I do the CPR? HURRY UP AND TEACH ME HOW TO DO IT, HEART LADY.
You should watch this thing and learn right now. Seriously, stop trying to figure out the Drake and Pusha T beef for two minutes and just do it. Here’s why:
1. Every minute that goes by without CPR, the chance of survival for someone in cardiac arrest decreases by 10 percent. Within five minutes, brain cells begin to die, Anderson says. Within ten minutes, the chance of survival hovers around zero.
2. Mouth-to-mouth is not the optimal technique anymore (“There’s enough oxygen in their bloodstream”)—hands-only CPR is actually easier and more effective.
3. The worst thing you can do if someone is arresting is sit around and wait for help. You cannot get in trouble for doing it wrong, either. There are good samaritan laws in every state to protect people, Anderson tells me.
Here’s how to perform hands-only CPR—the exact tutorial—according to Anderson and her entire team of heart whisperers:
1. Check to see if the person is responsive. Consider someone in arrest if they are unresponsive and either not breathing or gasping for air.
2. Call 9-1-1.
3. Start compressions by kneeling over the person, interlocking your fingers, and using the heel of your palm to push down in the center of the chest. It’s two compressions per second, pushing the chest two inches down.