• Pamela Froman

Hands-Only CPR – You Can Save a Life

It's hard to believe, but a span of just five minutes can make all the difference if you suffer cardiac arrest. That's why the Los Angeles Fire Department is promoting Hands-Only CPR. The Los Angeles Fire Department and the Red Cross want to increase the number of people who can do CPR in Los Angeles. According to the American Heart Association each year, over 420,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. Unfortunately, only 41 percent of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest get the immediate help that they need before professional help arrives.When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. In 2008 the American Heart Association stated that bystanders could keep a cardiac arrest victim alive just by pressing on the chest in a hard, quick rhythm: Hands-Only CPR.

If someone collapses in front of you the first thing to do is call 911. The dispatch can walk you through the next step: Checking for breathing and a pulse. What happens if the person is not breathing? You can actually keep a cardiac arrest victim alive just by pressing on the chest in a hard, quick rhythm – in other words Hands-Only CPR. The most important thing someone near the victim can do for a person in sudden cardiac arrest is to pump blood to the brain and to the heart muscle, delivering the oxygen that still remains in the lungs and blood. CPR can more than double a person's chances of survival.

That's exactly what 11-year old Kendall Stilwell did when her grandmother Rita Lovato collapsed while they were alone in her home. It was a very severe heart attack. “I was asleep and I heard these noises from my Nana. She was drenched in sweat so I called 911 and they had me do CPR,” Kendall says.

What saved Rita's life? Kendall was trained in CPR at the tender age of eight (amazingly by Rita herself) and when she called 911 the operator had her do chest compressions to keep oxygen flowing into Rita's brain, preventing brain damage and even death. Kendall did 30 to 44 impressions. If it wasn't for her quick thinking – and her knowledge of CPR – there would have been a good chance Rita wouldn't have survived. “I knew I had to help her because she wasn't breathing. It really scared me. But my Nana is very good now,” she says. "When the paramedics got there, they had to restart her heart four times," says Kendall's father, Art Stilwell. "Without Kendall, the paramedics said there would have been no way her grandmother would have survived."

Dr. James De La Torre, Emergency Physician at West Hills Hospital, was there the night Rita was brought in. “I remember it vividly,” he says. “Her granddaughter acted in perfect fashion.” Dr. De La Torre's responsibility was to stabilize Rita and then get her to the Intensive Care Unit. He instituted therapeutic hypothermia which cools the body to 33 degrees to protect against any brain injury from her cardiac arrest. But all that couldn't have saved Rita's life without Kendall's immediate action. “She is one of the biggest factors in the outcome. Kendall started the single most important intervention that got her grandmother to us and into further care. For every minute that goes by there is less of a chance of survival if you don't do CPR. Rita may not have lived at all or been in a much more compromised neurological state.”

Hands-Only CPR is extremely important, he continues. “The heart needs blood flow and there comes a point that if you don't do CPR the heart will not restart. The heart consumes all the energy sources in the body. If you don't replenish those via CPR the heart may not respond to other maneuvers including defibrillation.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department wants people to realize you shouldn't be afraid to perform CPR in an emergency situation. As a bystander, you can only help. When calling 911, you will be asked for your location. Be specific, especially if you’re calling from a mobile phone as that is not associated with a fixed address. Answering the dispatcher’s questions will not delay the arrival of help.

CPR is a skill that is helped by practice. The American Heart Association recommends that you take a CPR course at least every 2 years.

General CPR information:

Learn Hands-Only CPR from the American Red Cross:

Join West Hills Hospital for a free heart healthy seminar on Thursday, February 5, 2015; 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. at the West Hills Hospital Café. Kick-off American Heart Month by learning more about how we diagnose and treat heart disease. Featuring heart-healthy snacks, the event is free and open to the public. Call Consult-A-Nurse at (818) 676-4321 or email us at

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