By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Hundreds of New Yorkers learned Hands-Only CPR on Thursday in Times Square, as they witnessed the world’s largest CPR relay.

It took 250 celebrities, politicians and others about five hours to set a Guinness World Record for most people in a CPR relay. The relay lasted 12 hours, with a final tally of 700 participants.

The American Heart Association hosted the event in New York City as part of National CPR & AED Awareness Week.

Relay participants included AHA volunteer and The View alum Star Jones. Each took a turn performing at least 60 chest compressions at 100 beats per minute on a single mannequin, with five seconds or less between turns.

Cardiac arrest survivors Leigh Pechillo (right) and Brittany Williams in Times Square.

Cardiac arrest survivors Leigh Pechillo (right) and Brittany Williams in Times Square.

Cardiac arrest survivor Leigh Pechillo took part in the record-setting relay as well. Last Mother’s Day, the mother of two collapsed at home. Her husband called 911 and started CPR — training he had received at work.

“As a survivor who was saved because of CPR, it’s really important for me to raise awareness about how easy it is to learn,” said Pechillo, 45, of Southington, Connecticut. “You may never need it, but it’s a crucial life skill for everyone to have.”

About 326,000 Americans have a cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year. CPR from a bystander can increase the chance of survival by two- to three-fold, yet fewer than half receive it, according to the AHA.

Lawrence Phillips, M.D., director of nuclear cardiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, was No. 250 in the relay, setting the world record.

“We know many people have misconceptions about CPR or are too afraid to act in an emergency,” said Phillips, a member of the AHA’s board of directors in New York City. “This massive CPR relay provided us with an opportunity to engage New Yorkers with an exciting event and teach them Hands-Only CPR so they are better prepared to save a life.”

Nancy in NYC

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown at Thursday’s CPR event.

The AHA also presented its New York Heartsaver Hero Awards at the event. The awards honor healthcare providers, paramedics and everyday Americans who helped save a life using CPR.

Among the winners were Jerry Kertesz, who saved his wife after learning CPR at work, and Brandon Johnson and Nick Farber, a pair of optometry residents who saved Brittany Williams, a young Floridian who had a cardiac arrest while on vacation in New York City.

Photos courtesy of American Heart Association and Leigh Pechillo