CPR: The Most Important Life-Saving Skill You Can Learn

Posted 3/1/2017 in Other | 6289 view(s) | 5 comment(s)

 By Kevin Morris, MS, ATC 

Life can change in an instant.  Hank Gathers was running to the rim for an alley-oop dunk during a 1990 conference tournament game.  Michael Jackson was preparing for a series of comeback concerts during the summer of 2009.  Carrie Fisher just bought a new home in London before heading back to Los Angeles late in 2016. What appear to be normal expected actions from these celebrities quickly led to the same unexpected consequence, Sudden Cardiac Arrest(SCA).  A life-threatening arrhythmia where the heart abruptly stops beating, usually without warning, SCA sadly affects 350,000 victims outside of hospitals with an average survival rate of 10%.1 SCA survival relies on an immediate recognition, activation of the emergency response system, and administration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).1

Last month was National Heart Month and The American Heart Association (AHA) and other health organizations are urging all Americans to learn CPR.  Recently, the State of Illinois signed a law requiring all Illinois high school students to be trained on how to operate an Automated External Defibrillators (AED) and how to administer CPR.2

Though recent laws like this have allowed more people to learn this vital skill, a large majority of Americans still do not know CPR.  AHA discovered that “70% of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed.”3 One study acknowledged that more people would learn CPR if they understood what CPR does and the impact it has on saving a life.4 Therefore, the remainder of this article will touch on the steps and functions of CPR as well as the significance CPR has on saving a life.

CPR is a life-saving technique used in the immediate treatment of a victim in cardiac arrest.  In 2010, AHA changed the sequence of CPR from the acronym ABC (Airway, Breathing, and Compressions) to CAB (Compressions, Airway, Breathing).  See Figure 1.5 The latest decision to begin CPR with chest compressions over breathing was based on new research discovering the body has enough oxygen in the blood stream to supply all vital organs for a few minutes, however chest compressions are still crucial to push oxygenated blood to vital organs since the heart is unable to pump blood while in cardiac arrest.5 That is why AHA recommends for all non-medical personnel to at least learn Hands-Only CPR (chest compressions only).  The next step of CPR is to open the airway. Without opening the airway, the rescuer will not be able to efficiently get oxygen into the victim because of airway obstructions such as the victim’s tongue blocking the trachea.  While the airway is open, the last step is to deliver rescue breaths.  People breathe in about 21% oxygen and breathe out roughly 17% oxygen; therefore the breaths provided to a victim contain much-needed oxygen to keep vital organs alive longer.6

Figure 1.

It is very important to note that CPR rarely restores normal heart rhythm, but it does provide vital organs with the necessary oxygen to stay alive until an AED or advanced medical care arrives.  It usually takes about 3-5 minutes without oxygen for brain damage to occur and about 10 minutes for complete brain death.7 Every minute one is not performing CPR, it lowers the victim’s chance of survival. Do not be part of the 70% of Americans who feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency.  With over 75% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happening at home, the life you save may very well be a loved one!1 Learn this life-saving skill so every loved one has a better chance of survival!


At Achieve, our initiative is to make sure every person has the opportunity to learn CPR.  We can teach everyone from a youth soccer coach, a parent of 2 kids, a babysitter watching a 2-year-old, or a middle school science teacher, there is a class that is practical to everyone’s specific needs.

For more info on American Heart Association CPR classes taught at Achieve, please view the pamphlet below or call (630) 371-1623! Do not wait until it’s too late!


1.       CPR Facts and Stats. http://cpr.heart.org/AHAECC/CPRAndECC/AboutCPRFirstAid/CPRFactsAndStats/UCM_475748_CPR-Facts-and-Stats.jsp. Accessed March 2, 2017.

2.       2014 23 Jul. Illinois Schools Observe New Law Requiring CPR, AED Training. You’re the Cure. https://www.yourethecure.org/illinois-schools-observe-new-law-requiring-cpr-aed-training. Accessed March 2, 2017.

3.       CPR in America | Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. http://www.sca-aware.org/sca-news/cpr-in-america. Accessed March 2, 2017.

4.       Vaillancourt C, Stiell IG, Wells GA. Understanding and improving low bystander CPR rates: a systematic review of the literature. CJEM. 2008;10(1):51-65.

5.       New CPR Guidelines A Change From A-B-C to C-A-B | No 4 | Pagetitle. http://www.heartacademy.org/phpwcms/index.php?Vol9No4_Page13. Accessed March 2, 2017.

6.       Stallinger A, Wenzel V, Oroszy S, et al. The effects of different mouth-to-mouth ventilation tidal volumes on gas exchange during simulated rescue breathing. Anesth Analg. 2001;93(5):1265-1269.

7.       MD NDZ, MD DIK, Zafonte RD, MD DBA. “Brain Injury Medicine, 2nd Edition”: Principles and Practice. Demos Medical Publishing; 2012.

Peggie Graves 3/10/2017

Knowledge is power! Having the knowledge to save lives is empowering , this could make a difference in many life threatening situations! Thanks Kevin for valuable information.

Diane 3/8/2017

Great article about a crucial subject. Thanks1

Sue Fulton 3/8/2017

Great article Kevin. Valuable information

Julie Kuefner 3/8/2017

Great article! Will share it with my health students.

Mar Healy Jonas 3/7/2017

This was a great article. Simple and to the point and a good reminder for everyone. Thanks!

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