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Heart-attack survivor Dr. Thomas 'Britt' Percy urges training in CPR

Thomas "Britt" Percy, center, who had a heart attack while driving two weeks ago, stands with Carol Ostiguy-Finneran, her daughter, Gigi, 2, and Wilson Pyle Thursday at the site where his car felled a tree at the corner of Jackson and Prospect Streets. Pyle, an emergency room physician who saw the accident, and Ostiguy-Finneran, who lives on Jackson Street, helped save Percy's life.
JERREY ROBERTS

Thomas "Britt" Percy, center, who had a heart attack while driving two weeks ago, stands with Carol Ostiguy-Finneran, her daughter, Gigi, 2, and Wilson Pyle Thursday at the site where his car felled a tree at the corner of Jackson and Prospect Streets. Pyle, an emergency room physician who saw the accident, and Ostiguy-Finneran, who lives on Jackson Street, helped save Percy's life. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

“The more people that learn CPR, the better,” Percy, 46, said Sunday.

Because his rescuers knew CPR and there was a defibrillator nearby, Percy, a doctor, father and husband, got to live to see another day, he said. “I’m an example. We can say, ‘Look what can happen if you get immediate CPR,’ ” he said.

He’s hoping that will encourage people to take advantage of a series of free “hands-only” CPR training events taking place around the Pioneer Valley Wednesday as part of the World CPR Challenge. The challenge is put on by American Medical Response, a private ambulance company.

“It will only take five or 10 minutes to learn,” said Lindsay Pederson, a firefighter and EMT with the Southampton Fire Department who also works for AMR in Springfield.

Pederson organized a hands-only CPR clinic planned for Wednesday at the Southampton Fire Department from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is a drop-in clinic, and people do not need to sign up ahead, she said.

People can also get trained at Bang Bang Body Arts on Armory Street in Northampton from 2 to 4 p.m. The events are drop-in clinics and do not offer CPR certification.

Volunteers like Pederson will teach a kind of CPR called hands-only or compression-only that does not include mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. According to the American Heart Association, hands-only CPR can double a victim’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest until first responders arrive.

Percy said hands-only CPR is being taught more now because research has shown it’s easier for people to learn and perform. “It’s very easy and once you learn it, you can’t forget it,” he said. He said traditional CPR education requires the person administering it to do a certain number of compressions followed by a certain number of breaths. “You could get confused in the heat of the moment,” he said.

After a cardiac arrest, there is still some oxygen left in the victim’s blood, which is pushed around the body when someone does chest compressions, Percy said. Research has found that if there is only one person to do CPR, it is more beneficial to circulate the blood than to interrupt compressions to do rescue breathing, he said.

Pederson said that hands-only CPR is also a more appealing option for people who are afraid to do mouth-to-mouth on a stranger for sanitary reasons.

She said there have been a number of deaths around the Valley in the last few years where a person suffered a cardiac arrest in public and no one administered CPR before first responders arrived.

“Maybe people were nervous and afraid to help, or they didn’t know what to do,” she said.

She said survival rates are basically zero if a cardiac arrest victim does not receive any CPR in the five to eight minutes it might take for an ambulance to arrive. In sprawling communities like Southampton, it can take longer for an ambulance to come.

“Especially in the more rural areas of town, it could be 10 minutes for the ambulance to get there,” she said “So in Southampton, the more people we teach the better.”

In Hampshire County, volunteer EMTs will teach the hands-only technique at the Southampton fire station and Bang Bang Body Arts. In Hampden County, there are numerous locations in Springfield, Chicopee, Agawam, Westfield, West Springfield and Wilbraham.

For a list of participating locations, visit AMR’s website.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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