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Hamlin on-field heart attack prompts free Calgary CPR classes

Damar Hamlin’s on-field heart attack following a routine tackle during a Monday night football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals was a shocking event for millions of NFL fans.

What followed the Jan. 3 event was both support for Hamlin and his family, and a broader conversation about how no one is immune to the possibility of cardiac arrest.

“What we saw happen last week was really a reminder to all of us: Whether it’s you that goes into cardiac arrest, or whether it’s your best friend, or coworker, or stranger, our only chance of survival is helping those in our community,” said First Aid Training Calgary founder Ben Marasco.

For the month of January, First Aid Training Calgary is providing $10,000 of free certified CPR training. They’ll waive the fees for the first 750 hours of booked training.

“We knew we needed to do something, and we want to come to the community to provide some initial training. We thought that would be a good start to get people trained,” Marasco said.

He said that the unfortunate circumstances have sparked a renewed interest in Calgarians to be CPR trained.

“Cardiac arrest can really affect anybody. It’s not just people with underlying medical conditions and those that are getting older that can go into cardiac arrest.”

Proper training, said Marasco, saves lives. Outside of hospital settings, more than 90 per cent of people who suffer a heart attack at places like their home or work die. Heart disease is the number two killer of Canadians.

When bystander CPR is performed, the likelihood of a patient’s survival is increased by close to 30 per cent. With the proper use of an AED, their chance of survival is increased by more than double.

Doctors have credited the quick actions of on-field medical personnel and first responders at the NFL, who had initiated CPR and used the AED, with likely saving Hamlin’s life. Hamlin is now recovering and was able to watch this past weekend’s Bills game from his hospital room.

Not just for workplaces

Marasco said that most people taking CPR training are doing so to meet their workplace occupational health and safety requirements.

“Unfortunately, we get very few interests from people wanting to just do it for personal interest, but the reality is 70 per cent of cardiac arrests happen at people’s homes,” he said.

“Lots of people do CPR, or first-aid training because their employer tells them to, but the stats actually show you’re more likely to actually do it on a loved one.”

He said that with the current EMS crisis in the city, having the right training at home becomes even more critical.

“With EMS times in Calgary—unfortunately—steadily increasing, your chance of survival doesn’t start with EMS,” he said.

“It has to start from a coworker, a loved one, a bystander, or a stranger giving you CPR, to really give you a chance of survival.”

Marasco said that he hopes that they are able to give away all of the free hours of training to Calgarians. The company is also offering a 10 per cent discount on any of their first aid classes, not just CPR, for the month.

A few hours of class time is insignificant compared to saving a life

The time commitment is also not a large one, especially when compared to the possibility of saving a life.

“For a basic CPR course, you’re only looking at about five and a half hours to get training, and you’re certified for three years. Everybody can find five and a half hours,” Marasco said.

First Aid Training Calgary also uses CPR training mannequins with sensors that connect live to a television screen to show how effectively a person is performing CPR.

“They really give people the best hands-on experience, to be able to deliver the best quality CPR in the event that they need to.”

Another thing that Marasco said that he wants Calgarians to do in the wake of Hamlin’s heart attack, is to focus on being better educated and having plans in place for when someone they know or someone around them has one of their own.

“We hope all Calgarians will take time this week to educate themselves—refresh themselves on past training, talk to their friends, families, and co-workers about safety plans, and, of course, max out this program so we can fully train as many individuals as possible.”

The free CPR classes can be booked online at firstaidtrainingcalgary.com. Discount code JAN203 can be used for any of the other programs during January.