Compression-only CPR Saves One Pickleball Player’s Life – And It Might Save Yours!

“Hey, there’s something wrong with Larry,” someone shouted so loudly Stacy Spell started  immediately running. Larry Tucker had stopped breathing between games on the new pickleball courts in Squaw Valley. Cardiac Arrest. Heart Attack. Call it what you like, but Larry needed help – and fast! “I had been playing on the far court and was the last to arrive on the scene,” recalls Stacy. “By then, Larry was slumped in a chair, unresponsive – and no one was doing anything about it.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 70% of all cardiac arrests occur outside the hospital environment. This means the first responder isn’t typically trained medical personnel. Luckily for Larry, Stacy is a CPR-certified fitness industry professional trained in emergency protocols and CPR best practices, which currently recommend hands-only compression CPR.

Stacy quickly jumped into action, asking for help to get Larry to the ground as she checked his pulse. “No breath, no pulse, ash grey – I knew he was gone,” she recalls. “I immediately started chest compressions, then called out, ‘Who’s called 911?’” Everyone thought someone else had called. Stacy asked for someone to stand in front of her and make the call immediately. If you’ve ever called 911 in a true life-threatening emergency you know it can feel like a long time before help arrives. That day, it took even longer because the EMTs didn’t know where to find the courts. “It seemed like at least five minutes,” recalls Stacy.

When Stacy’s arms started to fatigue, her husband Tom put his hands over hers to take over the compressions. “Finally, 911 arrived, and it was like a ballet,” says Stacy. “No words needed, all had their duties. Tom didn’t stop though, until a trained pair of gloved hands gently glided over his to take over. The EMTs then shocked Larry with an AED and prepped him for the ambulance ride.”

A few stents and bypass surgery later, Larry posed with Stacy on the pickleball court. One year and one day after the heart attack, he was playing again! “What stands out to me is that no one knew what to do and, if Stacy had not stepped in with compression-only CPR skills, Larry wouldn’t be here today,” says Sue Smith, a pickleball player who was also in Squaw Valley that day. Stacy doesn’t deny that she was in the right place at the right time with the right skills – and it made a big difference. But, she is quick to add that these are skills anyone can easily learn – and every pickleball team should have. “You don’t have to be CPR-certified to make a difference,” says Stacy. “You can learn a lot just by watching the American Heart Association’s 90-second video, “Hands-Only CPR for Cardiac Arrest Victims.” 

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