What Does John Travolta Have to Do With CPR?

Robin Roberts learns some cutting-edge lifesaving techniques.

ByABC News via logo
October 16, 2008, 5:58 PM

Nov. 8, 2007 — -- In a medical emergency, every second counts. And in situations like these, no one is more important than the first responders.

Before they help you, though, many first responders learn how to help iStan.

IStan is a completely wireless patient simulator, originally conceived by the military to train medics on the battlefield. Now it is being used to train civilians as well, giving them a chance to practice real emergency scenarios without any risk.

"Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts got the opportunity to learn new lifesaving techniques with the help of a very lifelike iStan.

"There's blood, he sweats, he bleeds from different areas of his body," said Mark Tuttle, a paramedic and clinical educator at Medical Education Technology, Inc., the maker of iStan.

Roberts was able to listen to iStan breathing with a stethoscope, and as his breathing slowed, she learned how to "bag" him to jump-start his breathing again.

"I'm bringing him back to life," Roberts said.

The beauty of iStan for trainees is the ability to practice techniques over and over until they get them right — something they couldn't do on a real patient, Tuttle said.

Just as important as knowing what to do to help a patient is having the stamina to do it right. A device called the Autopulse helps rescue workers perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which can be extremely physically taxing.

Dr. Robert Tober, the director of the Emergency Medical Services of Collier County, Fla., said his EMS department has been using the Autopulse for almost two years, with amazing results.

"Four out of 100 people in most large cities survive a cardiac arrest," Tober said. "Collier County's latest 12-month survival was 37 percent."

The machine allows responders to focus on one of the most critical aspects of resuscitation — continuous and uninterrupted cardiac compressions, Tober said.

Dr. Steven Garner of New York Methodist Hospital teaches people how to perform CPR while singing the classic Bee Gees song, "Staying Alive," the signature song of the John Travolta movie "Saturday Night Fever."

Garner said that administering CPR can be one of the most stressful experiences a person can have, especially someone without medical experience.

"So how do you take the stress out? Give them a song to sing," Garner said. "So I thought of the Bee Gees. I thought 'How Do I Mend a Broken Heart' is too slow. You want to keep the blood flowing."

Eighty percent of all sudden cardiac arrests happen at home, so knowing the right way to do CPR is critical. The American Heart Association has made dramatic changes to CPR guidelines recently.

"What they have changed is [the] number of compressions to breaths," said Garner. "It is now 30 compressions before you give the breathing, as opposed to 15 and then breathing."

Administering CPR to the beat of "Staying Alive" and maintaining "100 beats per minute for three or four minutes until help arrives this person has a triple chance of surviving," Garner said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events