Start A Heart Cenla


April 2016 CoverCan you save a life? You walk into your bedroom to find your spouse on the floor, unresponsive. With every minute that passes, their chances of survival drops 10%. Do you call 911 first or begin CPR first? How many compressions do you do? Would you know how to save their life?

There are 500 Central Louisiana residents who are newly trained in performing Hands Only CPR for adults, child and infant CPR, how to relieve choking in adults, children and infants, how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke.

Nearly 350,000 people go into cardiac arrest every year, and the chance of survival is only 10%. About 3,000 people die each year from choking on food, with children under 3 being at the highest risk. Another 2,000 will die from drowning, which is the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 4.  These deaths can be prevented, if you have the right tools.

DSC_0799-webOn Saturday, April 2nd, residents poured into the Alexandria Riverfront Center to take the time out of their weekends to attend one of two training sessions. These vital skills were taught, free of charge, in order to make our community a safer one. There were also 135 trained coaches on hand, all of who are Basic Lifesaving Skills Certified (BLS), to give personal instruction and attention to the participants.

A children’s event, Pump It Up!, was also held in tandem at The Gem, so that parents of younger children could attend the event while their child also learned about staying heart healthy.

Mayor Jacques Roy told attendees that “they (were) participating in an event that makes a massive difference in the life they may save and a measurable difference in our community’s health according to real data, just by being CPR trained.” The City of Alexandria’s executive team went through the same training just a few days prior to the event, and their team takes the training very seriously. Roy stressed, “With an AED, and other technologies we have right here in Cenla, hands-only CPR and a willing, trained citizen—like all of you—can change the outcome for a person. That means a son or daughter gets to have a dad or mom.”

DSC_0837-webRobin J. Freedman, Jr.. MD, Start a Heart Cenla Event Medical Director, was on hand to talk to participants on the importance of early intervention. “It is great to see our community come together for such a worthy cause. Our emergency responders, heart specialists and hospitals in Alexandria have dedicated themselves to state-of-the-art treatment once the patient is under their care,” explained Dr. Freedman. “But without your timely resuscitation as a bystander, all the treatment that follows may not be effective. You are the key first link in this new, better chain of survival.” He also asked everybody to look around the room. “Somebody in this room will save a life.”

The event began with a montage of video clips of how CPR is represented on TV, in the movies and in the media. Most of the time, this is the wrong way to administer CPR. Event Coordinator David Melancon, NREMT-B, joked that these are the methods that won’t be taught at Start a Heart. He also reiterated that “nobody who goes into cardiac arrest is going to ask you for your CPR card. You don’t have to be certified to save a life, you just have to be properly trained.”

Jennifer & Doug Perry-webJennifer Perry spoke at the event to share she and her husband’s story and emphasize the impact of learning these skills. She heard her dog barking and ran in to find her husband kneeling on the bed in their bedroom in cardiac arrest.  She had seen a special on the Today Show about CPR and the 911 operator told her to begin compressions. “It felt like 30 seconds of CPR, and I was shocked to find out later that it was seven minutes.” She saved her husbands life, and by the time the ambulance arrived, they were able to take over with an AED. “My sister told me that she would never have been able to do that and I tell her, yes, you can do it. Anybody can do it.” Jennifer and Doug are believers in the power of the training Start a Heart offers to the community. “We plan on attending this event every year. It’s incredibly important.”

DSC_0818-webDuring the lively session, volunteers personally guided no more than three participants per group. Each group had adult and infant dummies to practice on. The session began with adult, child and infant CPR, then went through the Heimlich Maneuver for adults and how to relieve choking in an infant. There was also an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) demonstration and a video about spotting a stroke victim.

The American Red Cross recommends to refresh your training every year. “CPR skill retention begins to decline within a few months after a participant is trained and progressively decreases for about a year. Less than half of course participants can pass a skills test one year after training.” So if you did attend a session this year, please plan on attending next year as well.

DSC_3211-webThank you to all of our amazing generous sponsors for making this event possible, including our title sponsor Rapides Regional Medical Center, and sponsors Acadian Ambulance Service, Cenla Focus, the City of Alexandria, Kinetix, St. Francis Cabrini Hospital and Cleco. Every donation, sponsorship and recommendation helped to make this community a safer one.

Our mission is to train our citizens so that everybody in Cenla would be prepared to save a life. If you couldn’t attend the event, please visit our website at to learn how to save your infant, child, parent, neighbor, or even the stranger at the table next to yours.