Just before Valentine's Day, Woodbury kicks off the Take Heart program to teach 7,000 residents and workers "hands-only" CPR.
Woodbury firefighters are enlisting the public to help train 7,000 people in a new form of CPR that takes only 20 minutes to teach, using hands-only chest compressions and no mouth-to-mouth contact.
The citywide launch of the "Take Heart" program is scheduled for Feb. 13, and firefighters say they couldn't be more enthusiastic about its potential to save lives. They say hearts can be restarted by just about anyone with the right training.
Consider the case of the Red Wing boy who stopped breathing while doing laps in the school gym and was resuscitated on Jan. 20. Or the 49-year-old Woodbury man saved in 2007 by bystanders.
"It's a way for the community to get involved in helping to save lives," said Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens.
Businesses, schools, churches, nonprofit organizations and other groups are being recruited to send representatives to Woodbury's free training program so they can in turn teach others, said J.B. Guiton, commander of emergency medical services.
About 85 high school students who attended an overnight church gathering and a handful of city employees already have been trained in the hands-only technique.
The American Heart Association developed the bystander guidelines in 2008 after hands-only compressions were found to be as effective as traditional CPR using mouth-to-mouth. And now the association is pushing for new legislation that would require high school students to be trained in hands-only resuscitation, said Justin Bell, governmental affairs specialist for the association.
In some communities, residents are even throwing CPR parties to teach each other, said Angela Kain, a firefighter emergency medical technician. She and firefighter-paramedic Katie Cafferty are leading the local Take Heart campaign.
They're training people in a simple system of chest compressions that involves pushing hard 100 times a minute to the beat of "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees: as in "Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive ..."
Training kits include videos and mannequins and will be available to the public.
Among those advocating the large-scale training is Dr. Benjamin Wedro, emergency physician at a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wis., and an expert on the guidelines. He said compressions squeeze the heart's bottom chambers and push oxygenated blood around the body until electricity is used to restore the heartbeat.
Without compressions as a bridge, someone whose heart fails will begin dying within four to six minutes because the blood isn't flowing, he said.
The national template for large-scale training is Seattle and the rest of King County, Wash., where about one out of every three people is trained in CPR, Wedro said.
Saved by a 16-year-old
On Dec. 13, 2007, while officiating a Fridley High School basketball game, Dale Wakasugi's heart stopped.
The Woodbury resident woke up in a hospital with two stents in his heart. He learned that he survived thanks to bystanders led by a 16-year-old girl who had been trained in CPR at school a week or two earlier.
Lindsay Paradise was in the bleachers that night when her mom gasped. Not knowing what was wrong, the teen ran toward a cluster of people on the court.
"Thud! thud! thud!" she heard and saw a man down, head bouncing on the floor as he convulsed.
Paradise, now 20, stopped his head-slamming while someone ran to get an automated external defibrillator (AED). Paradise and others did compressions and mouth-to-mouth, using a mask she had in her purse, until the AED was hooked up.
She pushed the button. The referee's body jumped. He made a raspy sound and took a big gasp, she said.
Now studying law enforcement at Minnesota State University, Mankato, she joined Wedro and Wakasugi last week in lauding Woodbury's plans to train 7,000 people in 2012.
"That's awesome," Paradise said. "You'll never know when you'll need it."
Each year, about 300,000 people go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and 92 percent of them die, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Nearly half of those collapses are witnessed, yet most of the victims do not get resuscitation in time, the CDC says. It recommends that communities train bystanders and emergency-services personnel to provide timely and effective intervention.
Elsewhere, Lakeville has been a leader in the approach, training more than 5,000 people under its Heart Restart program, begun in 2009.
Guiton, the Woodbury EMS commander, said many bystanders have been reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth, or they fear that they'll do something wrong, but hands-only CPR eases those concerns. And just about anyone can be trained to operate an AED to help restart a heart, he said.
At the Woodbury Public Safety building last week, Kain and Cafferty trained some city employees. Wakasugi, now 53, was on hand, expressing his support.
Since his heart stopped on the court, he and Paradise have become friends, and he's left the pharmaceutical industry to sell AEDs. He's also in a survivors' network that teaches CPR at churches and other organizations for free.
"We're all survivors, so we're all trying to pay it forward," he said.
With the Take Heart program, he and others predict, there will be many more survivors -- and heroes, too.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038