By Dr. Maria Simbra

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of people fail to act in emergency situations because they either don’t know how to perform CPR, or they weren’t trained well enough.

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But, the fact remains that CPR saves lives and the importance of knowing how to do it can’t be underestimated.

Barb Barnhill was taking video of her husband, Tom, and his beloved race car, when he suddenly collapsed.

“I turned, and he dropped in front of me,” she says.

She immediately started CPR and yelled for her neighbor to call 911.

“Even the paramedics said did I witness it? And, of course, yes, I was right there, and started it,” Barb told Canonsburg Hospital Cardiologst Dr. Yadavendra Rajawat.

“CPR is very important, very, very important,” Rajawat said.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Tom was in ventricular fibrillation, a deadly heart rhythm.

“Most of the time, when you have ventricular fibrillation, most of the patients, they die,” Rajawat said.

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He got shocks and IV medications in the ambulance. Within minutes, they were at Canonsburg Hospital.

Then, Tom was flown to West Penn Hospital, and immediately taken to the cath lab to look at his heart vessels.

“His widowmaker was 100 percent occluded,” says Dr. Rajawat.

The widowmaker is the nickname for the left anterior descending artery — a main blood vessel of the heart that gives the front of the heart its blood supply. Blockage results in a massive heart attack.

Doctors were able to open the blockage, place a stent to hold the vessel open, and blood flow returned.

“Everything worked out very well in his case. His wife started CPR right away, she called paramedics right away, and we were able to open artery in less than one and a half hour. So, the time is very crucial,” says Dr. Rajawat.

While he was in the hospital, Tom got a call from a friend who was four years younger who had similar heart troubles. He wasn’t so lucky.

“Couple days later, same thing happened to him, and he was in his shop alone, and he’s gone,” Tom said.

Tom feels very lucky.

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“If it wasn’t for my wife, I wouldn’t be here,” he says.