The University of Arizona

Pharm Alum Saves Man Using Sarver Heart Center CPR Method

By Katie Maass, Sarver Heart Center | May 16, 2012

It's as easy as learning the three Cs: check, call, compress.

Dr. Kern with Wilma and Wilbur.
Dr. Kern with Wilma and Wilbur.
An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is recognizable because it bears some version of this symbol of a heart with a lightning bolt.
An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is recognizable because it bears some version of this symbol of a heart with a lightning bolt.
The staff at the UA Sarver Heart Center have been working on a public education campaign since 2004 to let people know about AEDs and chest-compression-only CPR.
The staff at the UA Sarver Heart Center have been working on a public education campaign since 2004 to let people know about AEDs and chest-compression-only CPR.
Padma Sundareshan
Padma Sundareshan

Padma Sundareshan understands there's nothing like the feeling of helping save someone's life.

The 2009 UA alum was at work one evening at a Walgreens pharmacy in Oro Valley. A couple was in the waiting area, in line to receive flu shots. Suddenly the wife cried out that her husband had stopped breathing, apparently from cardiac arrest. Sundareshan, who earned a doctorate from the College of Pharmacy, ran out of the pharmacy and, with help, laid the man on the floor and began performing CPR. She administered two breaths, then switched to chest-compression-only CPR.

When paramedics arrived, the patient still did not have a pulse. The paramedics started oxygen and an IV, took over CPR and administered a shock from an automated external defibrillator, also known as an AED. When the patient was on a stretcher and being taken to the ambulance, Sundareshan heard one of the paramedics say, "We have a pulse."

A few days later, the patient's wife called the Walgreens store manager to express her gratitude for Sundareshan's help. She said the doctors in the emergency room told her the only reason her husband was still alive was that Sundareshan performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.

"Definitely the training I received as a student ... helped me in this situation," says Sundareshan. "The feeling that you may have played a role in saving someone else's life knows no other greater satisfaction or pleasure in life for a human being."

You don't have to be a health care professional to be a lifesaver, according to the Sarver Heart Center. They say studies have shown that by doing chest compressions only, without mouth-to-mouth breathing, bystanders increase a cardiac arrest victim's chance of survival. The Sarver Heart Center's guidelines are simple: Follow the three Cs of chest-compression-only CPR – check, call, compress.

  1. Check for responsiveness. Shake the person and shout, "Are you OK?"
  2. Call. Direct someone to call 9-1-1, or make the call yourself if the person is unresponsive and struggling to breathe – gasping or snorting.
  3. Compress. Begin forceful chest compressions at a rate of 100 per minute. Position the victim backside down on the floor. Place the heel of one hand on top of the other and place the heel of the bottom hand on the center of the victim's chest. Lock your elbows and compress the chest forcefully; make sure you lift up enough to let the chest recoil.

If an AED is available, turn on the unit and follow the voice instructions. You'll know the unit by its symbol of a heart with a lightning flash. If no AED is available, perform chest compressions continuously until the paramedics arrive. This is physically tiring so if someone else is available, take turns after each 100 chest compressions.

If you suspect drowning or drug overdose, follow standard CPR procedures: alternate 30 chest compressions with two mouth-to-mouth breaths.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a major public health problem that claims about 300,000 lives in the United States each year.  While cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any age anywhere, if you are a man older than age 40, you have a 1-in-8 chance of suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.

The Sarver Heart Center has been promoting this method of CPR for the past several years. Here are some recent numbers:

  • 7 million: The number of people worldwide who have watched a six-minute training video produced by Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, director of the Sarver Heart Center, and Dr. Karl B. Kern, co-director. If you don't want to spend six minutes, spend two and watch the abridged version presented by UA alumnus Steve Kerr.
  • 32,000: The number of Arizonans who have been trained in person so far this academic year by Sarver Heart Center staff and student groups that include the College of Medicine's REACT (Resuscitation Education And CPR Training) Group in Tucson and Phoenix and the UA Student Emergency Services group in Tucson.
  • 25,000: The number of "pocket cards" that have been distributed since October 2011 to people who want a handy reminder of this lifesaving method.

If you would like a pocket card or more information, including how to set up a training session, please contact Melissa Ludgate at 520-626-2419 or mludgate@shc.arizona.edu.