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Gretchen Cliburn of Springfield got a second chance at life in 2014 thanks to CPR-trained bystanders willing to help when she collapsed during a race.
“It was a gorgeous day,” she remembers. “My friend and running partner Kathryn and I were ahead of schedule and enjoying the run. There was nothing out of the ordinary.”
Cliburn says the last thing she remembers from that morning is crossing mile marker 9 of the half marathon and remarking to her friend that she thought they’d have a strong finish in the race.
“Apparently I then told Kathryn that we needed to slow down a little,” Cliburn said. “The next thing she heard was the sound of my body hitting the pavement.”
Cliburn, who had no history of heart disease, had suffered a cardiac arrest and did not have a pulse. Two other runners, to whom she refers as “angels” began performing CPR and called 911. They continued until paramedics arrived, defibrillated her heart into beating again and transported her to a Springfield hospital, where she was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent advanced cardiac procedures. Her prognosis ranged anywhere from never waking up from the coma to making a full recovery.
“I was extremely fortunate that day because of the people who were there with me who performed CPR and kept going until EMS got there,” Cliburn said.
The Springfield Fire Department, CoxHealth EMS and Mercy EMS hope that Cliburn’s story will encourage anyone with a smartphone to get trained in CPR and download the PulsePoint app, which notifies CPR-trained individuals of cardiac arrests in their vicinity so they may administer aid. The app also notifies users of the closest available automated external defibrillator (AED).
“PulsePoint is a powerful tool to increase survival rates of cardiac arrest in our community,” said Fire Chief David Pennington. “In addition to the lifesaving CPR notifications, the application provides a complete virtual window into the emergency communication center.”
Early application of bystander CPR and rapid defibrillation with an AED have proven to be crucial in improving a person’s chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest. PulsePoint is not limited to emergency responders or those with official CPR certification, as it can be used by anyone who has been trained in CPR.
For professional responders, Pennington says PulsePoint can improve situational awareness, increase incident and resource visibility and enhance overall interoperability with neighboring jurisdictions.
Years after her cardiac arrest, Cliburn says she still encourages everyone she knows to get trained in CPR, and now that it’s available in the Ozarks, to download the PulsePoint app.
“You could be that person who gives someone a second chance at life,” she said.