Special Section: American Heart Association

Last updated on June 27th, 2019 at 02:22 pm

CPR Saves Lives

Why Learn Hands-Only CPR?

Cardiac arrest—an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes irregular heartbeat and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs — is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the U.S, and unfortunately, only 10% of those victims, survive because many do not receive CPR. Performing CPR in the first few minutes of the cardiac arrest is crucial and can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival.

Be the Difference for Someone You Love

Because nearly 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, if you are called upon to perform CPR, you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love: your mother, your sister, your friend…someone like Nicole.

One Woman’s Incredible Story of Survival

Nicole Grehn, a local Milwaukee woman, has been through more in her young life than most have been through in a lifetime. But she has faced every single obstacle with a relentless spirit and a tenacity that is unmatched. She has risen to every occasion, when so many would have given up.

At twenty-four years old, Nicole took a trip to Northern Wisconsin with her family, not knowing that this road trip would change her life forever.

Nicole and her family stopped at a gas station in Minocqua to take a break and get some snacks, when she collapsed and went into sudden cardiac arrest. Luckily, the gas station attendant called 911 immediately and EMS arrived on the scene quickly to begin CPR, shock her heart back into rhythm with an AED, and take her to a nearby hospital.

The next 48 hours and the chain of events that followed, are what made all the difference for Nicole still being here with us today.

She was airlifted to a hospital in Wausau where she coded nearly forty times. “As a nurse now, I can’t even fathom what it must have been like to take care of someone who was in that condition” says Nicole. At this point, her heart was functioning at only 10%, and doctors determined that they needed to transport her to Milwaukee so that they could put her on an ECMO  machine that would assist her weakened heart in pumping blood to the rest of her body.

She was driven by ambulance to a hospital in Milwaukee where doctors still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her heart, even after performing an open-heart operation and numerous other tests and scans. Nicole coded an additional thirty-eight times after arriving in Milwaukee, causing her organs to begin shutting down.

Because her body was experiencing poor blood circulation throughout the whole ordeal, doctors and family members, made the difficult decision to amputate her legs, above the knee, in order to prevent septic shock. After Nicole woke up from her coma, she had to come to terms with her new reality: life with a defibrillator implanted in her chest and life without her legs.

Initially, Nicole was devastated, but through the hardships, she found inner peace and fully embraces her new life. “If someone came to me now and said ‘Nicole, I will give you your legs back, but you have to sacrifice all that you’ve had over the last three years.’ I would say, ‘ No, I would never take my legs back for what I have gained’” said Nicole during an interview with NBC Nightly News.

In the past three years since her cardiac arrest, Nicole has graduated from nursing school, is studying to become a nurse practitioner, recently traveled to Haiti to help children who have experienced limb loss and has gotten involved with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement. She will be sharing her story at the Go Red for Women Celebration on Thursday, April 25. For more information, please visit:

Just Two Easy Steps

In 2008, the American Heart Association changed its recommended guidelines for bystander CPR: to promote hands-only CPR in the event of a cardiac emergency and to eliminate the breaths.

Hands-only CPR requires just two easy steps, performed in this order:

  • Call 911 if you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse or send someone to do so
  • Push hard and fast in the center of the chest (to the beat of a familiar song that has 100 to 120 beats per minute, such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees)

When you call 911, you need to stay on the phone until the 911 dispatcher tells you to hang up. The dispatcher will ask you about the emergency. They will also ask for details like your location. It is important to be specific, especially if you’re calling from a mobile phone because it is not associated with a fixed location or address. Remember that answering the dispatcher’s questions will not delay the arrival of help.

Take 60 Seconds to Learn

Visit handsonlycpr.org to watch an instructional video and share it with the important people in your life. Hands-Only CPR is a natural introduction to conventional CPR, and the American Heart Association encourages everyone to become certified in CPR as a next step. You can find local CPR classes, here in Milwaukee at heart.org/findacourse.

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