During a Monday appearance on the TODAY show, 51-year-old trainer Bob Harper, of "The Biggest Loser" fame, opened up about his recent heart attack. The trainer had suffered a particularly nasty kind of attack known as a "widowmaker," and his chances of surviving were only 6 percent (insert jaw drop). But thanks to two quick-thinking doctors, chest compressions, and a defibrillator, Harper is here to tell the tale.
The trainer is lucky that these two docs were there when his heart attack struck. But what if there isn't a medical professional around when it happens to someone you know? In fact, what if you're the only person there?
Harper teamed up with Dr. Oz for another segment of the TODAY show on Wednesday to talk about how anyone can help a heart attack victim in four simple steps. Read on to find out how you could save a life.
1. Keep calm, and dial 911.
The most important thing a bystander can do when a person falls victim to a heart attack is keep their cool, Dr. Oz stressed. Yes, that's easier said than done, but taking a deep breath and remaining calm will help you stay clearheaded, get your message across to the 911 operator, and determine what, exactly, you need to do next.
2. Locate and retrieve an AED immediately.
An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is the device used to administer shocks to and restore the natural heart rhythm of a heart attack victim. "This is my favorite piece of equipment in the gym right now," Harper said of the AED.
Thankfully, many public places (think: offices, schools, gyms) have one just in case, so all you'll need to do is find it and bring it back to the victim. But be sure to move quickly: Every minute spent retrieving the AED can reduce the heart attack victim's chances of survival, Dr. Oz said.
3. Administer chest compressions — and give 'em your all.
While someone is retrieving an AED (or while you're waiting for the AED to initialize), Dr. Oz advises administering chest compressions to the victim. To do so, simply place the heel of your hand in the center of their chest, put your other hand on top, and start pushing down — hard and fast, according to the American Heart Association.
Worried about hurting someone with aggressive compressions? Don't be — Dr. Oz said good pumps push the chest down a good one to two inches, which can leave a heart attack survivor feeling sore for a long while after the fact. (Harper, for example, says he felt pain and soreness in his chest for the entire month following his heart attack.)
"Again, there's only a 6 percent chance they're going to live," Dr. Oz explained. "You can't do much harm, and therefore, do whatever it takes to keep compressing at a rapid rate, 100 times a minute. Do not worry about anything else."
4. Attach the AED to the heart attack victim, and wait for help to arrive.
Although the thought of using an AED might be intimidating, Dr. Oz assures us that these devices are foolproof and constructed to make the process of using them as easy as possible. With diagrams and audible, recorded instructions, the AED will direct you to attach the two electronic patches to the heart attack victim's torso, with one just below the nipple and the other just above. Once they're attached, you can take a step back — the AED, itself, will administer a shock if and when it determines the victim needs one, so your work here is done.
Quick thinking like this is what saved Harper's life — and knowing how to react (and how fast!) just might help you save another heart attack victim's life, too.