Crossing the REAL Finish-Line

He was only a tenth of a mile from the finish line of a half-marathon race in San Jose when the 40 year old man collapsed. A Stanford University Hospital nurse was nearby and quickly determined the man had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. She started CPR immediately, and soon, Emergency Medical Technicians from an ambulance standing by at the race took over. The man was breathing and awake when he was loaded into the ambulance for the trip to a nearby hospital.


The EMT’s were unequivocal in their assessment of the situation: “CPR is what saves lives,” said one. “The fact that it was done quickly is probably what saved that man’s life.” Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause if natural death in the United States, and is nearly always fatal – unless CPR is started within minutes. Then, the successful (meaning no serious complications) survival rate triples.


Maybe you’re thinking it was only because the bystander who started CPR was a nurse that the outcome was so positive. Not so – her training in Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation was no different from what’s available to anyone. That means you or I, with a minimal expenditure of time, can learn how to save a life. What could possibly be more satisfying, more meaningful, than that?

If you learned CPR more than a few years ago, you should know the technique recommended by the American Heart Association has changed. No longer does it insist on  alternating chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth breathing. It instead focuses on chest compressions – the key being to keep blood flowing to the brain, to head off permanent damage and disability. Knowing how many compressions per minute and the force required for effectiveness takes training.


Various Medical Associations have said everyone has a “moral obligation” to learn CPR. Maybe that’s true, but obligation or not, think what it would mean for you to know one day that your action had saved a life and kept a family together. That very real possibility is more than enough reason to commit just a few hours of your time to learn CPR. Especially at this time of year, what greater gift could you offer?



Tom Sirmons