In my work as Grassroots Advocacy Director for the AHA, I advocate every day for policies that improve our cardiovascular health – things like smoke free air, research funding, access to AEDs and learning CPR. I am passionate about our mission and how it positively impacts our communities. However, I never imagined that it would become so personal.
On the evening of May 14th, my Dad was driving to his office in a small town in rural Minnesota. Suddenly, without warning, my Dad realized that something was very wrong. He tried to guide his vehicle to the side of the street but ended up on someone’s lawn. An off-duty EMT saw his vehicle in a place where it didn’t belong, and she acted immediately. She recognized my Dad was in distress; his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing. Without hesitation, she did what she had been trained to do: she had someone call 911 for help and she started CPR. Within minutes, police officers were on the scene with an AED, and they were able to re-start my Dad’s heart. With the help of emergency medical personnel, doctors, and nurses – my Dad was able to experience the high school graduation of three of his grandkids the following weekend.
Anyone 12 years and older can, and should, learn Hands-Only CPR. With CPR Week upon us, I ask that you use this opportunity – and my Dad’s experience – to take time to learn Hands Only CPR. CPR saved my Dad.
I also want to recognize the contributions and the impact our emergency medical professionals have on our communities. In so many instances, they are the unsung heroes when an emergency happens. They are the first responders to assess an emergency and implement the system of care for those in need. They are passionate, professional, and trained to act under stressful conditions, often when seconds make the difference between life and death. We celebrated National EMS week May 18-24, to thank first responders for the countless ways they serve our community, and for the lives that they save. But these individuals are busy saving lives throughout the year – when you have the opportunity, please thank these lifesavers for their work.
I believe very strongly in the mission of the American Heart Association, but advocating for learning CPR, placement of AEDs in public places, research for pacemakers and defibrillators and funding support for training and equipment for emergency personnel has never been more personal.