Shannon Daniel

Shannon Daniel (far right) with public school teachers in Richmond, Virginia.

As a young American studying Spanish abroad, Shannon Daniel experienced first-hand how CPR can save a life. But what she didn’t know then was the important role she would play in spreading that lifesaving skill.

Daniel was studying in Spain on her way to becoming a high school Spanish teacher, when she saw a lifeguard use cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save a man who was drowning. Her interest in first aid and emergency services was piqued by that experience and another, when she provided emergency wound care for someone who was stabbed while she was visiting Venezuela.

“I administered first aid, just basic Girl Scout first aid, which was all I had,” she said. “But it prompted me to do an [Emergency Medical Technician] class because I knew I would be taking my language students overseas, and I thought I should brush up. I did, and I started volunteering at the rescue squad. Now, it’s my career.”

Today, as one of two training managers for the Richmond Ambulance Authority in Virginia, Daniel uses her Spanish to help spread the word to a vulnerable population. It’s something she will be re-emphasizing during National CPR & AED Awareness Week June 1-7.

Bystander CPR is critical to increasing survival rates. Yet according to the American Heart Association, Latinos are 30 percent less likely to have someone perform bystander CPR when they suffer cardiac arrest.

“We talked to one of the local clinics in our area and to nurses and doctors about promoting CPR in the Hispanic community because it isn’t something that’s taught there,” Daniel said. “One of the biggest fears is doing it incorrectly and also having to do mouth-to-mouth. Now [with Hands-Only CPR] they feel much more comfortable. We’ve broken it down — call 911 and push hard and fast. Now, they are much more willing to comply and participate in bystander CPR.”

Bystanders who find a person in cardiac arrest should push hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of at least 100 times a minute to ensure the heart continues to pump oxygenated blood to vital organs. Hands-Only CPR, or CPR without mouth-to-mouth “rescue breathing,” has been shown to be as effective as CPR with breaths because chest compressions allow passage of air into the lungs. The AHA still recommends CPR with compressions and breaths for infants and children and victims of drowning, drug overdose or people who collapse due to breathing problems.

The AHA has a Spanish-language website with information on the Hands-Only CPR technique and a short teaching video. Daniel tries to spread the word about the site, and she and her colleagues visit local groups and festivals that are primarily for Hispanics, where they teach CPR in Spanish.

“They are so appreciative we come out there to take the time to train,” she said. “They are relaxed because we are speaking a language they understand, and they get it.”

Daniel said it is important to raise awareness about the grim statistics. Every hour in the U.S., about 38 people will have a cardiac arrest event outside of the hospital. Nine out of 10 people will not survive. But if lifesaving CPR is performed, a victim’s chance of surviving can double or even triple.

The work in the Hispanic community is part of the larger push the RAA is making in Richmond. The agency isn’t waiting for the public to come to them for classes. Last week, for example, the RAA met at a gym in one of the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority’s neighborhoods to celebrate the training of its 1,000th resident, and to kick off National CPR & AED Awareness Week.

In the spring of 2013, Virginia passed a law requiring CPR training in schools, to begin with ninth-grade students in the 2016-2017 school year. But the RAA decided to jump in early, actively training teachers to be instructors in the AHA’s Heartsaver CPR and First Aid program.

Daniel also has found a way to spread the word regionally in Virginia. She co-founded the Central Virginia CPR Council, a regional effort of fire and emergency medical services agencies and hospitals in the area. The council has trained more than 7,000 citizens on Hands-Only CPR in the past six years.

“I thank my stars every day I am lucky enough to do what I do. CPR has always been one of my passions. I have seen it work and I’ve seen it save lives,” said Daniel, who plans to finish a doctorate in adult education leadership next year. She hopes to become an academic dean of a program for first responders and EMS. “We’ll teach CPR to anyone, any time, any place, anywhere.”

Photo courtesy of Shannon Daniel