CPR is a life-saving skill. It is easy to learn, the knowledge is accessible, and it makes a difference in the outcome of a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, not everyone has this skill under their belt. Studies have shown about 50 percent of people don’t know CPR. The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages everyone to gain this skill. CPR is a tool to utilize during sudden medical emergencies. 

Denise Dawkins, registered nurse and CPR instructor. Photos provided by Denise Dawkins

According to the AHA, roughly 350,000 adults experience cardiac arrest outside of [1] the hospital in the United States. AHA’s research also reveals that people in low-income and predominantly Black neighborhoods are less likely to receive bystander CPR than those in predominantly white communities with higher income, and women are less likely to receive CPR than men. Learning this technique is not just for you. It is for the people around you.

“CPR is the superpower you have to help somebody in a dire situation. You are trained and ready to intervene to be of help. It’s like reading, writing, driving or swimming. It’s a skill you take for your whole life that is not for you; it’s for somebody else,” said Denise Levy, National senior director for professional membership at the American Heart Association.

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This method involves resurrecting the heart to get blood flowing through the body.  When a person is unresponsive, another individual needs to put their hands on the person’s chest. From there, they need to push down the trunk with force to initiate the start of the heart. The conscious individual must repeat this action until the person awakens or medical professionals arrive.

“An emergency does not discriminate. Sudden cardiac arrest affects anyone of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities,” said Denise Dawkins, registered nurse and CPR instructor.

“We reviewed a lot of cases that were simple and preventable. People die for the most ridiculous reasons because others are afraid to do what they need to or don’t know how,” said Dawkins.

The AHA advocates on the state and local levels to get more people to learn CPR. 

CPR is not mandatory to learn in public schools, but the AHA has partnered with school districts for initiatives to encourage students to learn. Initiatives like Jump rope and heart help for kids exemplify their efforts. AHA has partnered with the NFL for NFL Play 60 to influence people to understand the life-saving method.

The latest and possibly the most memorable example of CPR’s necessity was in January 2023. NFL Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on[2]  the field during a Monday Night Football Game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. Damar is only 25 and suffered a cardiac arrest from a blow to the chest. Millions of fans at the stadium and watching from home were silent and praying for him as medical professionals used CPR and an AED defibrillator. Demar Survived and became an advocate for CPR.

“He is living proof that CPR works. People hear about CPR, but we all saw it on Monday Night Football that it saved a life. His outcome is because he received the right medical intervention when needed,” said Levy.

“Because of his position, which personally happened to him, Damar Hamlin impacts those who watch and listen to him. Because of what happened to Damar, I heard institutions implement CPR as a part of their regular certification amongst the employees. I think this impact sheds a light on CPR and its value to sustain and save a life,” said Dawkins.

CPR is a technique that makes a difference during a cardiac arrest. Levy and Dawkins reinforce that possessing this skill can save the lives of many when it’s time to intervene. More information on CPR and where to learn it can be found on Heart.org.  

Clayton Gutzmore is a freelance journalist in South Florida. He published stories in several news outlets including The Miami Times, 91.3 WLRN, The Atlanta Voice, BET, and Variety Magazine. Gutzmore graduated...