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25 Years After Life-Saving Incident, Peoria Firefighters Stress Importance Of CPR

The Peoria Fire Department is honoring the 25th anniversary of a life-saving moment by calling for more people to learn CPR.

In 1994, then 17-year-old Nick Knapp was playing basketball at Woodruff High School when his heart suddenly stopped.

Fortunately for Knapp, off-duty fire captain Byron Yang was at the gym and immediately began performing CPR. He not only survived, but stayed completely neurologically intact.

Knapp went on to become the first basketball player to ever play Division 1 college basketball with an implantable defibrillator. His message is simple:

“Get out there and learn CPR,” he said. “It’s a very simple thing to learn, but it can all the difference for someone if you’re in the right situation at the right time. It can give someone, like me, a second chance at life.”

Knapp said advances in resuscitation technology, like automatic defibrillators, mean more people survive incidents like his.

The Peoria Fire Department has since maintained a strong track record.

“Peoria firefighter paramedics, along with our AMT paramedics, were able to get a return of spontaneous circulation 32.6 percent of the time,” said Assistant Chief Tony Ardis, referencing data from last year. “That’s a fancy way of saying they were able to get a pulse back. The national average is 11 percent.”

But Ardis said bystander CPR was performed in fewer than 16 percent of cardiac arrests.

He said just learning compression CPR can have a huge effect on the likelihood of survival.

Ardis added that 80 percent of cardiac arrests happen in the home and it’s important to be able to take action while waiting for first responders.