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Cardiac arrest survivor shares story, encourages others to learn CPR

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Posted at 6:01 PM, Feb 05, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One cardiac arrest survivor is sharing her story after a near-death experience taught her that anyone can fall victim to this heart condition.

In August 2022, Shari Taylor was the Bank Board President at Oak Grove High School.

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It was important for her to volunteer and help the programs her kids were a part of there.

One day, she was cleaning out the high school football concession stand when she collapsed without warning.

“All this time, I still get choked up with I think about it,” Taylor said.

Two of the parents were nurses and recognized she was in cardiac arrest.

There was no AED nearby, and it took over five minutes for the ambulance to arrive. However, both parents consistently performed CPR on her.

“I think about if they hadn’t been there and if they hadn’t known what to do, like how differently that could have been,” Taylor said.

shari taylor with nurse friends
Shari Taylor, far right, with the two women who performed CPR on her the day she went into cardiac arrest.

As nurses, these parents knew how to perform CPR, but DeEtta Lee, with the American Heart Association’s KC location, says 70 percent of individuals are not comfortable performing CPR.

“With hands only CPR, you can really learn in 30 seconds or less, and it's really for bystanders,” Lee said.

Lee says hands-only CPR has two steps: 1) call 911 and 2) press hard and fast in the center of the chest approximately two inches down, meaning you may crack ribs.

But, it’s worth it to save a life. Especially considering 90 percent of out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in someone’s home.

“You could save somebody that you know and love,” Lee said as an incentive for people to learn CPR.

Another incentive involves the fact that cardiac arrest has no set symptoms or demographic.

“The scariest part is I had no idea it was going to happen, you know, I was just a healthy mom,” Taylor said.

It occurs when there is an electrical disturbance in the heart. It’s different than a heart attack, which is a blockage in the heart.

That’s why the ideal first resort is to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) to shock the heart and get it beating again, something the AHA is working to introduce in schools and other public places.

Lee says the healthiest appearing individuals could be most at risk, making increased CPR knowledge the only controllable variable in addressing this issue.

“You don’t have to be certified in hands only CPR to save a life,” Lee said. “This is a skill that literally anyone can do.”

Ages seven and up can perform hands only CPR, and with Lee’s instruction, I learned in less than 30 seconds.

Not only did Taylor’s friendship with the two parents who saved her life deepen after her incident, but so did her appreciation of life.

“I feel so beyond grateful that I can just have the simple things in life, do the simple things,” Taylor said.

Like going on a walk, for instance.

Except even when she’s not physically walking, she’s still putting her best foot forward with every new day she gets.

To learn more about American Heart Month or learning CPR through the American Heart Association, visit their website.