Save a life in 2 easy steps with hands-only CPR

Here's how simple it can be to bring someone back from the brink of death: It took just a few minutes Tuesday to train dozens of people in hands-only CPR.

Eager volunteers, from teens to seniors, leaned over specially designed dummies outside the WHYY studios, pushing firm and fast to music selected to inspire the right speed: 100 beats a minute.

As for pressure? The more the better, said Benjamin Abella, the physician who is leading the new Mobile CPR Project Philadelphia.

No need to worry about further injuring a person in cardiac arrest, said Abella, who directs Penn's Center for Resuscitation Science.

"This would be a good problem to have," he said.

"You can't hurt someone worse than dead," added the project's cofounder, Marion Leary, a nurse who directs research at the Penn center.

Philadelphia's need for CPR training is acute. According to the American Heart Association, a person who suffers cardiac arrest here is less likely to get immediate assistance than in many other cities.

That matters, because CPR, if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, may double or triple a person's chance of survival, the heart association says.

The hands-only method of CPR, which is at least as effective as traditional CPR and does not require mouth-to-mouth breathing, involves only two steps:

Call 911.

Place one hand on the center of the person's chest, place the other hand on top of the first, and push down - as hard and fast as possible - until help arrives, or another bystander can relieve you. Properly done, hands-only CPR is physically taxing.

As you push, keep your arms straight, and depress the chest at least two inches with each push, letting it rise between pushes. The goal: at least 100 compressions a minute.

Think about the Bee Gees' disco classic "Stayin' Alive," Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," or They Might Be Giants' "Birdhouse in Your Soul." Go online to a site like Spotify for more 100-beats-a-minute ideas.

The Mobile CPR Project plans to continue to hold weekly events throughout Philadelphia, particularly targeting low-income neighborhoods where CPR training tends to be scarce but lots of people have cardiac problems, Abella said.

Though the enthusiastic trainees didn't seem to need much encouragement, Anthony Radico and Amanda Beal were there to provide inspiration.

Three years ago, Radico and Beal didn't know each other. They just happened to be working out at the same gym in Upper Darby when Radico slumped against a wall.

Beal, then an occupational therapy student, immediately called 911 and went to help Radico, then 43. She noticed he was hot and his skin was blue. Her fingers were on his wrist when his pulse stopped, and his eyes rolled back in his head.

Beal had received hands-only CPR training a year earlier, and knew what to do. She kept pushing on his chest until the paramedics arrived within about seven minutes.

"I never thought I'd have to provide CPR, or I'd be so calm in this kind of situation," Beal said. "Part of being trained is the empowerment you feel."

Radico woke up after a week in a coma, but is fully recovered and now is a Radnor Township police sergeant.

"Anthony is living proof of why CPR is so important," Beal said.

The two have stayed in touch, and their families have become close, too.

"It's like we've known each other forever," Radico said.

The Mobile CPR Project, part of the regional CPR Ready campaign aimed at raising awareness about the importance of CPR preparedness, is accepting community requests for training: http://phillycpr.wpengine.com

cgilman@phillynews.com215-854-5502

@CaseyAGilman