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Learning to save a life on your lunch break

Julie Wood


Jaclyn Conn’s life was close to perfect in 2014. She was newly married, had moved into a new home, and had a successful career. But it all came to an abrupt halt when Conn suddenly collapsed while coaching a local girls’ soccer team. Thanks to the quick thinking of the girls on her team who ran to find help, a bystander rushed to the scene. With the help of this stranger, Conn’s life was saved by one simple act – CPR.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting each year. Less than 10 percent of those individuals survive.

A new CPR Training Kiosk on Penn Medicine’s West Philadelphia campus aims to turn those dismal statistics around. Penn Medicine unveiled the device, in partnership with the American Heart Association and Independence Blue Cross, earlier this month.

Located outside the One West Café in the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the kiosk is only the second of its kind in the city of Philadelphia. It works by engaging passersby in a quick 5-minute tutorial on Hands-Only CPR.

“At Penn Medicine, our instinct is to innovate,” said Kevin Mahoney, chief executive officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “When we see problems, we’re always thinking of solutions. That’s so critical for time-sensitive emergencies like sudden cardiac arrest – there’s no time to waste. Anyone can perform CPR and save a life. Units like this new kiosk are putting lifesaving skills in the hands of people across the city.”

Installing the kiosk will tackle the issues people face when experiencing cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. For example, though bystander CPR has proven to dramatically increase survival of people suffering cardiac arrest, according to the AHA, studies have found that 70 percent of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency, with most citing a fear of hurting the victim or an inability to properly administer CPR. The kiosk helps people conquer those fears by teaching proper technique and delivering real-time feedback. 

Operated with touch screen technology, the training begins with a video explaining how to perform life-saving hands-only CPR, and is then followed by a practice session and a 30-second CPR test on a built-in practice manikin. While practicing, the kiosk gives feedback in real time about the depth and rate of compressions and proper hand placement, both of which are key factors that influence the effectiveness of CPR. 

“This is a great teaching tool,” said Benjamin Abella, MD, MPhil, a professor of Emergency Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Resuscitation Science. “The general notion is that we need to find more innovative ways to get CPR in the hands of the public in whatever ways we can.” 

The first kiosk in Philadelphia was introduced in the Independence Visitor Center. Since its arrival in 2017, 13,000 people have used it to get trained in CPR. There are currently more than 30 kiosks available across the country providing free service for anyone willing to take a few minutes to learn how to save a life in a cardiac emergency. 

At the kiosk unveiling event, Mahoney shared a personal story about the importance of learning the lifesaving skill. When he was 23 years old, he witnessed his neighbor collapse in their yard. Calling on training he learned as a Boy Scout, Mahoney and a friend rushed to his neighbor’s side to provide help until medical professionals arrived. 

“If you provide bystander CPR promptly, you can double, even triple, the chance of survival,” Abella said. “Anyone on the scene can make a difference.”

During the unveiling event, five years after Conn’s cardiac arrest on the soccer field, she finally met the stranger whose heroic act saved her life. Eron Friedlaender, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was at the park that day watching her own child’s soccer game on a field nearby. Thanks to Friedlaender’s quick response, Conn survived. Today, she has two children and works diligently to provide training and resources in her community so others can learn the life-saving practice.

“I can only imagine the good work that a kiosk like this can do,” Conn said. “Anyone can be trained in a matter of minutes, and when it comes to CPR, minutes matter and you save lives.”

For more information about the hands-only CPR kiosks, visit the American Heart Association website.

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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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