They say everything is bigger in Texas. That includes CPR events.
Five years ago, physician Robert Cluck, mayor of Arlington, put forth a challenge to his city’s 360,000 residents: Improve cardiac arrest survival rates by teaching 10 percent of the population how to perform CPR.
As vice president for medical affairs at Arlington Memorial Hospital, Cluck knew from experience how important CPR is in saving lives. Cluck enlisted the help of the Arlington Fire Department, which was eager to take on the task.
“Getting bystander CPR initiated early is critical,” said Battalion Chief/Medical Operations David Carroll. “Our residents are spread out over a large area. It can take 5 to 8 minutes to get a fire truck or ambulance to them. If someone suffers cardiac arrest and is lying there for 5 to 8 minutes and the oxygen isn’t flowing, it’s going to be difficult to rescue them.”
The campaign kicked off with a mass CPR training event. Calling it CPaRlington, more than 200 people learned to do chest compressions on the field of Rangers Ballpark, Arlington’s Major League Baseball stadium. Firefighter/EMTs also began teaching CPR at junior high schools, with 50 to 100 children rotating in and out of the gym all day. Last year, they taught at nine schools.
To reach their goal of 36,000, they knew they had to step it up. They hatched a plan: stage the most massive CPR event the world had ever seen.
The night before the event, volunteers had lined up American Heart Association kits in tidy lines across the field, each containing an instructional DVD and manikin. Then, on the morning of Nov. 17, 2009, more than 100 school buses began arriving at Cowboys Stadium, unloading 4,626 eighth grade students from across the city.
At 10 a.m., the students knelt on the grass doing chest compressions while the DVD played on the giant video screen as volunteer CPR instructors walked the rows, offering assistance.
“I was overwhelmed by it,” Cluck said. “The sheer number of kids doing the compressions, their enthusiasm, their seriousness. They had fun, but they went home understanding how to do CPR. I think any of the kids out there who participated could successfully resuscitate someone.”
The effort was enough to earn Arlington a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Previously, Oslo, Norway, held the world record for the largest CPR training session, with 3,692 participants. When the Guinness World Records official sent to observe the event announced that Arlington had surpassed Oslo, “the kids went wild,” Cluck said.