UCF's CPR and First Aid class to see increase in enrollment after Damar Hamlin's collapse

Dynesha Peterson demonstrates how to perform CPR at the Recreation and Wellness Center at UCF. CPR can triple the chances of survival for someone in cardiac arrest if performed in the first few minutes, according to the American Heart Association.

An ordinary football game turned into a near tragedy after Damar Hamlin, a 24-year-old safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed.

During the Jan 2. NFL game, Hamlin's heart stopped when he tackled a Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver. Attendees throughout the stadium fell silent as Hamlin collapsed on-air in front of millions. Football fans watched live as first responders rushed to the field to perform lifesaving measures. Medics performed CPR and used shocks from an Automated External Defibrillator.

Dynesha Peterson, a UCF athletic training coordinator, noted how critical these medical procedures were for Hamlin's survival. 

“With the CPR they were performing, they not only got his heart beating, but they kept the blood flowing to his brain to keep him as stable as possible," Peterson said. "Because he broke out into cardiac arrest and they were able to perform CPR, he was able to recover in the hospital."

The American Heart Association defines CPR as “an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating." Peterson said learning CPR is necessary because a situation like Hamlin's could happen at any point.

Hamlin’s incident has brought nationwide coverage to the need for proper CPR and first aid training.

Just days after Hamlin's collapse, the American Heart Association reported a 620% increase in page views on performing CPR properly. The association also saw a 66% increase in page views to their website, representing an additional 57,600 people that week.

“CPR is really essential and important because that’s how you get that blood flow to the brain, and that’s basically how you keep their body functioning,” Peterson said.

According to the American Heart Association, chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing at a ratio of 30:2 are how to perform CPR correctly. The ratio, 30 chest compressions and two breaths, is meant to simulate the heart pumping and the lungs breathing.

“When you need CPR is when the heart stops, so if the heart stops and you do CPR, you are basically recreating that beating motion for the heart to get blood flowing throughout the body and more so to the brain so that person can come back and be functional,” Peterson said.

UCF offers weekly CPR, first aid and AED certification courses each semester to ensure students, faculty and staff are properly trained.

“We teach them the skills so they can provide CPR in the best and most efficient way possible," Peterson said. “The reason behind it is to get as many people able to save lives as possible.”

Peterson said the 12-spot classes typically fill up fast, but they expect more people to sign up after Hamlin’s incident.

“I do think there is going to be a higher demand for classes and a higher demand for wanting to learn and know all the content behind first aid, CPR and AED within this next semester,” Peterson said.

Junior nursing major Kenny Voltaire believes educating the public on proper CPR and first aid training is vital for saving lives.

“It’s important to know CPR because you never know whose life may be in danger,” said Voltaire. “The whole thing with Damar, it’s very tragic, but fortunately, there were people there who knew what to do in that situation.”

The Centers for Disease Control reported that 9 in 10 people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital will die. However, CPR performed within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

Voltaire said he is thankful he was certified in case a situation like Hamlin’s was to happen around him.

“Seeing Damar in that state kind of gave me a sense of urgency, but when I saw emergency staff doing what they can, performing CPR, having an AED, it made me grateful that I have my CPR certification," Voltaire said. "You never know when in times like these, someone can use it."

Just 20 days after his cardiac arrest, Hamlin returned to the stadium to support his team as they battled for a spot in the NFL playoffs.

Students, faculty and staff looking to learn more about the available CPR/AED and first aid training courses can visit the RWC's website.

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