Cardiac Arrest Survivor Pays It Forward With CPR Awareness

Stacy Lee joins with DCRI to motivate people to learn about CPR

Stacy Lee, left, works on a CPR compression mannequin with Monique Anderson.  Photo by Les Todd.
Stacy Lee, left, works on a CPR compression mannequin with Monique Anderson. Photo by Les Todd.

North Carolinian Stacy Lee beat the long odds on surviving cardiac arrest because a stranger knew cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Friday, Lee came to Duke with family and friends because someday they might be called on to return the favor.

Lee worked with the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) and the American Heart Association (AHA) to hold DCRI's first CPR Awareness Day Friday in Duke's North Pavilion.

Nationally, 7 to 8 percent of people survive cardiac arrests; in North Carolina, the survival rate is about 12 percent. The purpose of the training day was to increase knowledge of cardiac arrest, and show people how to perform compression-only CPR, which as Lee knows from personal experience can be the difference between life and death.

Compression-only CPR, also known as hands-only CPR, is when you apply pressure to the middle of the victim's chest without performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. According to physicians at the event, this is the preferred method for the lay public. You do not have to be certified to perform compression-only CPR, just knowledgeable of how to do it properly.

"In Durham, there's a 17 percent chance for a bystander to know CPR," says Duke cardiologist Dr. Chris Granger. "Three broad areas we need to work on are community, paramedics and hospital care; most importantly we need to educate the community on CPR."

The event was inspired by a documentary on Stacy Lee, "Surviving Cardiac Arrest: A Family's Perspective on a Second Chance at Life" shot by Duke's Documenting Medicine Program. Lee was at a fitness center when she suffered cardiac arrest last year; employee and firefighter Tony Smith performed CPR on her until EMS arrived. Both Lee and Smith answered questions from the audience at Friday's event.

"I feel stronger now than I ever have," says Lee. "Things people take for granted like hearing birds chirping, I don't. I'm getting rid of stress and thanking God every day."

Smith encouraged people to learn CPR. "It will change your family's life," he said.

Cardiology fellow Dr. Monique Anderson does research on outcomes of cardiac arrest and initiated the documentary on Lee. "I told her she has a story that needed to be told," Anderson says. "I feel more Americans need to know about cardiac arrest and CPR."

Speaking at the training, Anderson said that in a study surveying Basic Life Support (BLS)-trained individuals who did not perform CPR after witnessing cardiac arrest, 40 percent stated they did not perform CPR because they panic.  People who are not BLS-trained are even more likely to panic.

After the documentary and other presentations were shown, followed by a CPR video from the AHA, the audience (which included several of Lee's relatives) practiced compression-only CPR in the DCRI lobby. Event organizers said nearly 300 people participated. Several tables were set up with mannequins, Defibrillator kits, and assistants standing by to train.

A compression-only CPR tutorial from the AHA can be viewed here.