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June 7, 2011

Doctor turns Pa. park into CPR classroom

By Tom Knapp
Intelligencer Journal/New Era

LANCASTER, Pa. — In less than four minutes Sunday, nearly 4,000 people learned how to perform CPR.

"I remember my first CPR class. It was four hours long," said Michael Reihart, medical director for the Lancaster Emergency Medical Services Association and associate medical director of pre-hospital services at Lancaster General. "It was crazy ... and I still don't remember it."

Reihart had a captive audience at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. With Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters poised to take the stage at Long's Park Amphitheater, Reihart and a pair of EMTs opened the show with a few words about CPR.

Soon, there were thousands of hands in the air, clapping at the all-important rate of 100 beats per minute. Everyone, he said, should remember that tempo — and they might save a life.

"We are starting something called the Summer of Survival. Our goal is to teach 50,000 people compression-only CPR," Reihart explained earlier Sunday.

The Long's Park concert was only the first event of the season, but Reihart said he and his EMTs will be making more appearances over the next few months.

A lot of people balk at performing CPR on strangers because of the intimacy of mouth-to-mouth breathing, he said. Now, the American Heart Association is recommending compression-only CPR - pumping the chest without mouth-to-mouth.

"Providing compressions only can increase the chances of survival," he said. "You don't need a breath."

Most people have about five minutes' worth of oxygen already saturating their blood, Reihart said, and the compressions keep the pressure up so that oxygen nourishes the brain.

And five minutes is about how long it takes a first-responder to arrive at the scene of a 911 call, he said.

Those compressions can make all the difference.

"If you decide not to do CPR for one minute, you decrease the person's chances of survival by 10 percent," Reihart said. "If you do not perform CPR for five minutes, you reduce that person's chance of survival by 50 percent."

A person should compress the ailing person's chest about 100 times a minute, he said — that's about the tempo of the Bee Gees song "Staying Alive."

"You're going to push hard, you're going to push fast and you're going to push deep," he said. "Keep that song in your head and you'll be doing it right."

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