COTTONWOOD - Three local families were spared an empty seat at the dinner table this spring, thanks to 'Chest-Compression-Only' CPR.
According to Save Hearts in Arizona Registry and Education (SHARE), Chest-Compression-Only (also known as 'Hands-Only') CPR involves no mouth-to-mouth contact or tricky ratios to memorize. Instead, the chest of a cardiac arrest victim is compressed 'fast and hard' with the heel of the rescuer's hand until medical apparatus is available.
"I've been a firefighter 33 years," said Cottonwood Fire Chief Mike Kuykendall. "My first 10 years, I never saw anyone survive the (cardiac) event. Now, the save rate is like night and day. It's made a world of difference."
On Aug. 7, an award ceremony coordinated by Carol Gibbs of SHARE (Save Hearts in Arizona Registry and Education) was held at the Cottonwood Fire Department.
During the sometimes-emotional ceremony, a room full of fire personnel, Verde Valley Ambulance Company staff, civilian rescuers, surviving cardiac arrest victims and their families were recognized and given the opportunity to share thanks.
As Juan Skerrett took the podium to relive the day of his cardiac arrest, he had something else to say about his heart.
"First of all, thank you everyone who worked on me," Skerrett said. "God Bless you all."
Skerrett, a fit and youthful-looking grandfather, was attending a church when he suffered a near-fatal cardiac arrest.
"I felt real sleepy and dropped to my knees. I began praying. The next thing I know, I'm in the hospital," said Skerrett.
Skerrett joked that the fire and medical personnel arriving at the church "may have thought something weird was going on, because everyone around me was singing and praying for me. They were contending for my life in that way, doing what they knew how to do."
As Skerrett spoke, a small child called to him from the audience. Skerrett beamed.
"That's my granddaughter," Skerrett said.
Brian Driver was minding his own business, shopping at Mount Hope, when someone came up to him and said he should check on a man collapsed in the parking lot.
The man in the parking lot was Shane Moody and he was dying of a cardiac arrest.
"I could tell by the way he had fallen that something wasn't right," said Driver.
Fortunately for victim Moody, his rescuer happened to be a medic with American Medical Response in Prescott.
"I started my checklist and checked his pulse but I didn't feel but one beat. He was turning blue," Driver said.
Driver conducted CPR on Moody while awaiting Cottonwood Fire Department and Verde Valley Ambulance personnel.
"I used to work at Cottonwood Fire Department so some of the guys recognized me right away," said Driver.
Although he wasn't sure at the time if his efforts were enough to save the victim, Driver found out weeks later that Moody had survived.
"It was nothing," Driver said of his rescue.
A key reason that SHARE publicly recognizes survivors of cardiac arrest is to emphasize the importance of early intervention.
"With 'Hands-Only' CPR, we've more than tripled the survival rate," said Gibbs.
According to the Cottonwood Fire and Medical Department release, 38 percent of cardiac arrest victims survive when bystanders intervene by giving CPR and using AEDs before EMS arrives.
"We want organizations to know that we offer CPR training. Even if it's just one family, we'll come out and train you," said Kuykendall.