Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Would you know what to do if your loved one collapsed in a gym, a restaurant, a theater or any other public place?
It's a question that merits fresh consideration after this week's frightening collapse of Bronny James, son of NBA superstar LeBron James, whose heart suddenly stopped beating during basketball practice at the University of Southern California.
The younger James is an incoming freshman and already a star in his own right, with many expecting him to play professionally like his dad. Thankfully, he is recovering and hopefully will suffer no lingering effects from this life-threatening medical condition.
James is the second elite athlete this year whose cardiac arrest has generated national headlines. Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who collapsed during a "Monday Night Football" game on Jan. 2, survived and is cleared to play again.
These high-profile emergencies are a reminder that no one is immune from a sudden medical crisis. Even athletes in peak condition are susceptible. Understanding this and being ready to render assistance at the scene could save the life of someone close to you.
There's unfortunately much room for improvement when it comes to emergency preparedness. "Hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can double a person's odds of surviving cardiac arrest — when the heart suddenly stops beating, causing a person to collapse and stop breathing,'' according to the Harvard Health Letter. "Yet fewer than half of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive CPR from someone nearby."
A key reason: Not enough people have CPR training. Just 18% of Americans are up to date on this vital skill, the health letter reports.
We need to do better. CPR training, along with instruction on first aid and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), is widely available in Minnesota and elsewhere from organizations like the American Red Cross. Getting certified involves taking a course that generally lasts a few hours. Online options, or a combination of online and classroom work, are also available.
Cost varies but is reasonable, with the price of many upcoming Red Cross courses typically around $100 or less. The well-known organization's CPR certification is good for two years. This is a minimal amount of time and resources for what could be lifesaving skills.
The Red Cross offers workplace CPR and emergency aid training as well, an option that employers who haven't taken advantage of this yet should act upon. It can take time for emergency responders to arrive. Having employees who know what to do in those crucial first few minutes benefits everyone. Having an AED available, which can restart a stopped heart, is a smart workplace investment, too — one that boosts the chances for a positive outcome.
James and Hamlin are fortunately still with us, with swift medical assistance playing a critical role in their survival. Athletes of their caliber typically have trained professionals nearby if there's an emergency. Improving CPR training rates can ensure that the rest of us can access this help or provide it when the need arises.