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Reno-based CPR instructor addresses ethnic disparities by offering bilingual training

Three women during a CPR instructional class. Two of them are on their knees with their hands pressing down on the chests of mannequins. A woman is standing and overseeing the exercise.
Maria Palma
KUNR Public Radio
Alma Marin (standing) has been a CPR instructor for more than 20 years.

When a person’s heart stops beating, how quickly cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is administered can be the difference between life and death. Knowing CPR can save a person’s life, but some groups are less likely to take the training.

Alma Marin, a public education coordinator and CPR instructor at REMSA Health in Reno, said immediate CPR can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest.

“For every minute that passes without immediate CPR, it decreases the person’s chance of survival by 10%. So the longer we wait, the less likelihood that they’re going to survive. So we want to enable anybody and everybody in our community to learn hands-only CPR. By performing hands-only CPR immediately, when somebody has a sudden cardiac arrest, we can double or triple their chance of survival,” she said.

Marin has been teaching CPR for more than 20 years and took her first CPR class in high school. She said over the past two decades, CPR training has been simplified.

“I took a class, and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is really daunting’ and ‘it’s very important, it’s CPR.’ But the American Heart Association has made it very easy to learn the basic steps; they’ve simplified it, which is really nice,” Marin said.

A mannequin intended for CPR exercises is placed on a table next to paper brochures.
Maria Palma
KUNR Public Radio
CPR training is now more accessible and is offered in multiple languages.

Knowing CPR is something everyone – not just health care providers and emergency responders – should know. According to the CDC, about 7 in 10 cardiac arrests happen at home.

“If you witness somebody collapse, make sure that they’re ok. ‘Sir, sir, are you ok?’ If they don't respond, send somebody to call 911. If they’re not breathing or breathing normally, we’re just going to put our hands on the center of the chest and begin hands-only CPR. It’s at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. We’re going to push hard and fast. … We’re going to continue that until help arrives or until someone brings an AED [automated external defibrillator],” Marin explained.

The American Heart Association recommends having a song in mind to help maintain a steady rhythm. For example, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees is often used in CPR training.

But while CPR lessons are more widely accessible, ethnic disparities still remain. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Black and Hispanic individuals were less likely to receive bystander CPR at home and in public locations than white individuals.

“The American Heart Association has recognized these disparities. And as far as the Hispanic Latino community, they’ve launched their ‘Héroes Salvando Corazones’ or Heroes Saving Hearts campaign to kind of promote everybody in the Hispanic Latino community to learn at least the basic steps of CPR,” Marin said.

Marin teaches CPR in English and Spanish. She said there are many reasons why a person might hesitate to learn.

“There’s a lot of myths in all communities, that maybe sudden cardiac arrest is rare or that it only happens to elderly people or people with heart problems. But a sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anybody at any age. Some people are afraid of maybe hurting the person or maybe that AEDs are only used by trained professionals and so forth,” Marin said.

Terin Arnold is a biomedical science academy teacher at Reed High School. A few years ago, Marin certified her as a basic life support instructor.

“I’m here doing my recertification for that program so that I can certify all of my 180 students in this life-saving training ability. It’s something that is a really critical life skill, I would say, certainly for my program. It’s students that are interested in becoming health care providers,” Arnold said.

For more information or to schedule a class, visit remsahealth.com.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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