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Iowans Become Ambassadors for CPR After Personal Experience

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More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually. (Pixabay)
More than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually. (Pixabay)
June 1, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – Additional lives could be saved if more Americans knew how to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator, according to the American Heart Association. About 70 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in someone's home, and Butch Gibbs from south central Iowa was one of those.

He's become an ambassador and trainer for cardiopulmonary resuscitation after a heart attack felled him in 2004 and his wife Susie – a nurse – was able to perform CPR until an ambulance arrived.

"And I was saved by the immediate start of CPR and the quick arrival of an AED and if that wouldn't have happened, I wouldn't be alive today,” he says. “I'd have been dead 14 years ago."

Gibbs believes it's especially important that people living in rural areas know life-saving techniques for heart-attack victims because emergency response time might be slower, or a hospital might be 20 or more miles away.

Friday marks the start of National CPR and AED Awareness Week, which continues through Thursday, June 7.

The Heart Association recommends a combination of compression and breath-techniques when performing life-saving measures, but Susie Gibbs says even if you're limited to "hands-only" CPR when a victim experiences cardiac arrest, it's better to try something than nothing.

"If nobody does anything, by the time even the volunteers get there, it's too late,” she says. “And that's why we are so gung-ho about promoting this because people need to jump into action."

The Heart Association says cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the U.S..

Butch Gibbs says he was galvanized to talk as much and often as possible about his near-death experience, after learning that between 100,000 and 200,000 lives of adults and children could be saved each year if CPR were performed early enough.

"Well, I tell people that I died – my heart stopped and I quit breathing – and to me, that's the definition of death and that's what happened to me,” he says. “Once in awhile, you do get lucky and you can save somebody."

In 2009, Iowa passed a law requiring that every high school student complete a CPR certification course by the end of 12th grade.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA