Pine resident working to save people from cardiac arrest

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Each day, an estimated 1,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest.

But only about 10 percent of them survive the abrupt cessation of heart function.

“When someone is treated quickly, then the survival rate increases to 40 percent,” said Mary Newman of Pine, president and co-founder of the nonprofit Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

The organization — based in a one-room office off Route 19 in Pine — aims to increase public use of automated external defibrillators — AED machines — and boost the number of bystanders who apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation to someone in cardiac arrest.

There's no need to press your lips on a stranger's mouth and start breathing for them. Simply place one of your hands on your other hand, and then rhythmically press hard and fast — about two times per second — on the center of the victim's chest.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation sells a kit for people who want to teach themselves how to do hands-only CPR.

Sue Hostler of Bradford Woods recently used the hands-only method to save the life of a young man when she found him unconscious in an elevator at Philadelphia International Airport.

Doing chest-compression CPR by itself is effective, and getting out that information definitely will help save lives, said Dr. Norman Abramson, chairman of the board of directors of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

The foundation “is dedicated to making people aware that sudden cardiac arrest — sudden cardiac death — can occur in people of all ages,” Abramson said. “Mary (Newman) has been instrumental and successful in increasing awareness of the occurrence of sudden cardiac arrest, and what to do about it, so that bystander intervention can help save lives,” Abramson said.

Newman also oversees the foundation's publications and online community of sudden cardiac arrest survivors and their loved ones.

A New Jersey native and single mother of four, Newman helped to launch the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation in 2006.

She has a master's degree in nonprofit management from Robert Morris University, and a bachelor's degree in community health administration from the University of Cincinnati.

“I've always been interested in health care,” Newman said. She previously worked for the former National Center for Early Defibrillation at the University of Pittsburgh.

Sudden cardiac arrest usually stems from an electrical problem in the heart, Newman said. “A heart attack is more of a plumbing problem,” she said.

Unlike folks who report pain during a heart attack, people immediately become unconscious during a sudden cessation of heart function, Newman said.

“In about half of the cases, there is no warning,” Newman said. “If you see someone collapse, call 911 and start CPR while sending someone to seek the nearest defibrillator.”

New AED machines cost $1,000 to $1,500 and come with loud, easy-to-follow voice commands.

“AEDs are designed for use by the general public,” she said. “The device knows if somebody needs to be shocked.”

To learn CPR, Newman suggests that people check with a nearby hospital or fire department for upcoming classes. Start the Heart, a Pine-based business, also offers weekday, evening and weekend CPR classes for health care professionals and lay people. For information on the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, call 724-934-0034, or go to

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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