Tuesday, October 9, 2018

‘Bystander CPR’ Saves Mayor and Emphasizes Importance of Life-Saving Technique


By Jessie Stringfield-Eden 

In early October 2017, Mayor Eric Haas and his wife Jan were sitting on the deck, enjoying their lake house in Jamestown, OH after a busy weekend. That Friday they had enjoyed the Highlands V.S. Dixie Football game, participated in a walk for charity on Saturday and they had planned Sunday as a much-needed day for relaxation… unfortunately those plans were dashed as Eric turned to his wife Jan and said that he felt faint.

An instant later, Jan realized that Eric had fainted and she was trying desperately to wake him back up.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Mayor Suffers a Heart Attack 


Jan, the owner of a Trent Montessori school, was thankfully trained in CPR and had had a short refresher lesson that Friday at the Highlands football game when St. Elizabeth and the Fort Thomas Fire Department had hosted a training session for ‘hands only’ CPR. The combination of both of these CPR training methods allowed Jan to begin CPR on Eric. Jan used primarily breath centered CPR training and then grabbed her cell phone but in being so flustered, she struggled with calling 911. It was only after dialing ‘999’ four times that she had a moment of clarity and was able to dial 911. Thankfully, EMTs were nearby and arrived quickly.

Although Eric doesn’t remember most of the experience, he remembers his recover and his family has helped him to remember.

RELATED: LISTEN: Mayor Haas Speaks on in near fatal heart attack (FTM Radio, Nov. 2017)

“They took me to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and kept me there for a week. I was having some memory issues and I kept trying to move my leg which had a stint in it so my kids kept telling me ‘Dad, you can’t move your leg,’ and I kept asking why. They would reply ‘because you had a heart attack. Mom saved your life.” I would reply “She did??” And then cry a single tear. This happened over and over and they referred to it as ‘Groundhog Day’."

After bypass surgery and rehab, Eric has made a full recovery and maintains his health by eating right and exercising daily.

The experience has made Eric a firm believer in the importance of CPR training for all. “Everybody should take CPR training. I was trained fully after my issue. Everyone knows kind of what to do but go ahead and try doing it. Just that little bit of knowledge could save someone’s life. It’s great that St. E. is doing this.”

Training the general public in hands-only CPR has been a community effort and it has been extremely important to the Fort Thomas Fire Department, Fort Thomas Independent Schools and St. Elizabeth Hospital. Members from each one of these organizations were in attendance at the Highlands v.s. Dixie game last October, just days before Mayor Haas had his heart attack, to teach the method to attendees with CPR mannequins which were donated by Laura Randall with the non-profit organization Northern Kentucky EMS (NKEMS), the American Heart Association Training Center in the area.

Community outreach and training in the form of this kind of event is vital in reducing heart related deaths, according to Laurie Conkright with St. Elizabeth Hospital. “In the past 3 years, we’ve reached about 10,000 people,” said Conkright. “This program began in 2015 by the Heart and Vascular Institute to reduce heart related deaths by 25% in 2025.”

According to Lt. Eric Scherpenberg, the Public Information Office for the Fort Thomas Fire Department, the training event at the football game focused on a simple message of “PUSH HARD <> PUSH FAST <> PASS IT ON”. He also stated that ‘Bystander CPR’, in general, is one of the strongest predictors of survival in cardiac arrest. This method is extremely valuable in emergency situations and assists emergency medical providers.


This method can also be the difference between a person surviving and walking out of a hospital or experiencing severe brain damage. “When someone collapses and goes into cardiac arrest, irreversible cell and brain death can occurs in as little as five minutes due to lack of oxygen being transported around the body. In addition, it is significantly more difficult to restart a heart that has been deprived of oxygen for a prolonged period of time. Hands only CPR ensures that blood keeps being circulated around the body preserving critical organs like the brain until a defibrillation attempt can be made. For most people, the time from when a person collapses till when an ambulance arrives is often greater than five minutes. Hands only CPR fills this crucial gap of time with a life saving intervention until professional help arrives,” said Lt. Scherpenberg.

“Hands only CPR is easy to perform, easy to learn, and has almost no risk of disease transfer which is a major stumbling block for people concerned about giving mouth to mouth.” 

Lt. Scherpenberg further emphasized the importance of all CPR training but there is also an understanding that not everyone in the community can attend a class to become certified. “While traditional CPR is important to learn and is the Gold Standard of cardiac arrest care, it is not practical for everyone in the community to attend a class,” said Lt. Scherpenberg. “Hands only CPR provides a vital resource for our community that can boost survival rates from 8% all the way to 31% and higher.” 

The importance of teaching the community CPR has truly been an all-encompassing community effort between several different organizations and community members...and Lt. Scherpenberg is deeply appreciative. “This was truly an amazing community event,” said Lt. Scherpenberg. “In addition to the organizations that supported us, I would like to offer special thanks to the following people who supported this event from the beginning: CAO Ron Dill, Chief Mark Bailey, FF/P Chris Rust. FF/P Chris Wulfeck, Josh Ishmael, Danielle Stiner, the Highland's broadcasting team, and my wife Cheri who helped with every aspect of the event.”

Interested in learning more about hands-only CPR? The Fort Thomas Fire Department is going to hand out some Fire Prevention Week materials and the Highlands Film and Broadcasting class is going to have their PSA play on the video score board at the Highlands v.s. Covington Catholic game on Oct. 12.

This game will not feature full training but you can learn more about the method at this event.

Can’t attend? There are several ways to learn! “Anyone can learn more about the hands-only CPR technique by watching this video from the American Heart Association on our website,” said Laurie Conkright with St. Elizabeth. “You don’t have to be formally trained to use this method. For those who want full training in CPR, many area fire departments provide community training. It’s important to keep in mind, it’s more likely that you will need to perform CPR on a loved one, rather than a stranger.”


Caption: Fort Thomas EMS, St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine and the Highlands Medical Staff work together on emergency care and football equipment removal. 


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