A lawyer in Fairfax had a sudden heart attack and was saved by a friend’s knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Next week is National CPR and Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) Awareness Week, and now he’s challenging folks to join a fundraiser to support research for these life-saving procedures.
In 2016, John Harrity was a healthy, 49-year-old athlete who followed a strict diet and had no family history of heart disease. Playing in a weekly basketball game, he felt like he couldn’t breathe and suddenly fainted. Harrity had what he described as one of the worst types of cardiac arrest – a so-called “widow-maker.”
“Luckily, that night my friend called 911 immediately, and within seconds of me hitting the ground, they were performing CPR – and that saved my life,” he said. “I mean, it is the reason that I am here today.”
Harrity encouraged people to watch the American Heart Association’s Hands-Only CPR video to learn how to help in a heart-attack emergency. Another way is to participate in the upcoming Washington, D.C., “Lawyers Have Heart” 10-K race. The free event is open to everyone and will be held online the weekend of June 11. More information is online at lawyershaveheartdc.org.
Federal data show heart disease remains the number one killer in the nation and the second-leading cause of death in Virginia. Harrity pointed to his own experience as evidence the chances of survival are double or triple if CPR is performed immediately after cardiac arrest. He noted the urgency behind learning the life-saving technique.
“Seventy percent of out-of-the-hospital cardiac arrests happen in the home,” he said, “and only about 46% of people who experience an out-of-the-hospital cardiac arrest receive that immediate help that’s needed, including that CPR.”
More than 350,000 Americans have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting each year, and about 90% of those are fatal, according to the American Heart Association.