I enjoyed telling the story last week about four Good Samaritans who saved a sudden heart attack victim. I hope it raises awareness about the power of CPR.If you missed that column, published in Sunday’s newspaper, it was about Vikram Verma, a 45-year-old cyclist from Upper Macungie who collapsed on a ride. A retired firefighter, two nurses and an off-duty EMT — who just happened to have a portable defibrillator in his car — came upon him and worked together to keep him alive.Not everyone who collapses in the street will be so lucky and have four trained professionals randomly pass by.But it doesn’t take a medical expert to save a life. It takes someone who knows cardiopulmonary resuscitation. That’s how the four who saved Verma did it.A physician, he knows how necessary it was for his heart to keep pumping, even when he wasn’t breathing.“If I had just lain there for another five or 10 minutes, maybe they would have brought my heart back, but I don’t think my brain would have come back,” Verma, who is recovering well, told me last week. “If you don’t get the blood supply, it just starts to go.”I’m happy to say that his story has led others to learn CPR. I hope it inspires more.Verma is connected to the Lehigh Valley’s cycling community. His children, 13-year-old Divya and 15-year-old Divik, are champion cyclists. The family attends races at the velodrome. That’s where Verma was headed when he collapsed on June 8 not far from his home.Vikram Verma, center, had a heart attack while cycling. Nurse Wendy Robb, left, nurse Kelsey Anne Miller, retired firefighter Larry Detris and an unidentified off-duty EMT happened to pass by and saved his life.
(APRIL GAMIZ / The Morning Call/)Stricken cyclist heralds his four angels – ‘Without them, I wouldn’t be here’After hearing what happened to Verma, some members of the cycling community at the velodrome are taking CPR courses.The more people who know that skill, the better off we all are. You never know when you or a loved one will need it.One of my columns last month urged all high school students to be taught CPR. That’s not required in Pennsylvania. It’s taught now as “hands-only,” with no rescue breathing, which some people are reluctant to do.“It’s two easy steps. It’s call 911 and push hard and fast. It’s not hard. Everybody should know it,” said Wendy Robb.She’s one of the nurses who helped Verma. Afterward, CPR was on her mind, too. She asked her husband and son if they knew how to do it.There are a lot of ways to learn CPR. You can take a course. You can watch a video. The American Heart Association has resources on its website, including tutorial videos and step-by-step instructions.You even can learn it while you’re killing time at the airport, or visiting tourist attractions. The heart association and the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of health insurer Anthem, have placed learn-CPR kiosks in more than 30 cities, many of them in airports.The interactive kiosks show a brief “how-to” video, followed by a practice session and a 30-second test. They have a manikin, or a rubber torso, to practice on, and the kiosk gives feedback about the depth and rate of compressions and proper hand placement, which influence the effectiveness of CPR.In Pennsylvania, kiosks are located at Harrisburg International Airport, the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia and the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.The heart association sells training kits, for about $40, that you can use at home.“You can have a CPR party. Invite your friends and family. Learn CPR,” said Robb, a former trauma nurse who now teaches nursing as a dean and professor at Cedar Crest College.The compressions-only technique has been shown to be just as effective as CPR with rescue breathing, according to the American Heart Association, at least in the first few minutes after an adult suffers cardiac arrest.The association recommends a combination of rescue breathing and chest compressions for infants and children; for drowning and drug overdose victims; and for people who collapse due to breathing problems.Kelsey Miller, the other nurse who helped save Verma, told me that after helping him, she was motivated to take action, too. She bought a CPR mask to carry on her keychain, in case she’s ever in a position where she has to perform rescue breathing.“I hope I never have to use it again,” Miller said. “But if I do, I’m prepared.”Paul Muschick: Pennsylvania’s CPR law is good step. Here’s what should be done nextVerma plans to make sure he is prepared to help others, too.He intends to buy a portable defibrillator like the one used on him. They’re known as AEDs, automated external defibrillator.AEDs can be found in many public gathering places such as malls, schools, concert halls and sports venues. Even if one is handy, though, it’s important for someone to be ready to perform CPR, too.“It is who finds you. That truly is the key there,” Verma said. “If that person knows CPR, your life is saved. If that person calls 911, they’ve done the right thing but it may be too late for you.”Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or email@example.com