AHA staffer uses CPR to save a life

By American Heart Association News

hands performing CPR on a mannequin

As Liz Young shopped for landscaping, she heard a woman screaming for someone who knew CPR.

She said her first thought was that “surely there’s somebody else, a doctor or a nurse. Then I realized, I’m the one. I have to go.  I know CPR,” said Young, an American Heart Association youth market director and CPR advocate in Jackson, Mississippi.

Young ran through the garden center and found Debbie Lundstrom, 59, on the ground.

Lundstrom had complained “everything is flickering,” to her husband Richard just moments before she collapsed. She had slumped to the ground, her eyes were open but unfocused and her skin was taking on a bluish cast. He was frantically attempting CPR.

When Young reached the couple, she took over with Hands-Only CPR, pushing hard and fast on the center of the woman’s chest — just as she has trained countless others to do.

Lundstrom gasped for air after a minute or two, “which seemed like forever,” Young said.  Knowing some people still need CPR even if they’re gasping, Young continued.

Liz Young
Liz Young

Then Lundstrom gurgled, started breathing and tried to get up. Soon after, paramedics arrived and took over. They then transported her to the hospital.

Doctors told the couple they were unsure what led to the collapse, although Lundstrom said she’s suffered from low calcium for many years.

Although it’s a challenge to diagnose the cause of a collapse, low calcium can interfere with a normal heartbeat, sometimes causing the heart to stop briefly or beat so slowly that it can’t effectively circulate blood through the body, according to Michael Sayre, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Looking back, Young is struck with the knowledge that out of about 100 people, no one else came forward to help. Still shaking from her resuscitation effort, she yelled to bystanders, “Everyone needs to know CPR.”

Only a third of Americans feel confident performing CPR, according to a 2014 AHA online survey. Young said she found out firsthand how much AHA still needs to educate the public.

Young worked on a team that helped get a state law requiring high school students to learn Hands-Only CPR before graduating. She knows that training high school students in CPR helps put more potential rescuers in the community.

“I’ve been so proud that what we’ve talked about really works,” Young said.

Lundstrom doesn’t remember the incident, but she’s thankful that Young was there to help save her life.

“Liz is a very special person,” she said. “I would never be able to thank her enough.”

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