Springfield — Members of the Illinois Senate Women’s Caucus are preparing themselves to make a lifesaving difference within their communities after participating in a Hands-Only CPR training course led by Illinois Heart Rescue and the American Heart Association on Thursday.

Organized by the bipartisan group of women senators, the training allowed all members of the Illinois Senate a convenient opportunity to learn how to perform Hands-Only CPR and the importance of knowing this lifesaving treatment.

“February is American Heart Month, National Wear Red Day was Feb. 3, and we celebrated #GoRedDay at the Capitol on Feb. 14. What better way to promote women’s heart health than to participate in Hands-Only CPR training, which I first learned about when portable defibrillators started to become available in public buildings,” said State Senator Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), co-chair of the caucus. “So today, members of the Illinois Senate Women’s Caucus, other senators and legislative staff took time to learn Hands-Only CPR, which can make a tremendous difference in saving a life during an emergency.”

“The Women’s Caucus wanted to sponsor this training during American Heart Month to help us understand how heart attacks affect women differently than men and to be prepared to respond if necessary,” said State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights), co-chair of the caucus. “Women rarely have chest pain, so the more we know about assessing the situation and helping the victim, the better their chances are of survival.”

“We also learned that AED (Automatic External Defibrillators) batteries can lose their charge when they haven’t been checked for lengthy periods,” Gillespie said. “As senators, we will work with the American Heart Association to determine what type of regulation we should put in place to ensure those tools are always available and in proper working order.” 

Approximately 20 state senators took part in the training exercise where they also learned how to detect if someone is having a cardiac arrest. 

According to the American Heart Association, about 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die, which is why it is important for the general public to learn how to perform Hands-Only CPR.

Statistics show that women, specifically, are less likely to receive bystander CPR. From 2021-2022, 19% of men in Illinois received CPR from a bystander, compared to just 9% of women.

“Statistically, women are more likely to die during cardiac arrest due to bystander inaction,” said Lauren Peters, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. “Studies show that comes from a variety of reasons: stigma regarding female biology, as well as the simple belief that women are less likely to have heart conditions. The American Heart Association welcomed the opportunity to teach the Senate Women’s Caucus how to perform Hands-Only CPR on both male and female bodies to improve the response to cardiac arrest for everyone. Good Samaritan laws offer some protection to those who perform CPR. We strongly encourage everyone to learn Hands-Only CPR. You never know when you may be able to save a life.”

Deb McCarver, an employee with the Senate, shared a personal CPR experience with the group to encourage their getting prepared, explaining how she was able to keep her husband alive after a heart attack last year. 

“With a prompt by the 911 operator, I was able to immediately start compressions and keep it up until the EMTs arrived about 10 minutes later,” McCarver said. “Thanks to numerous CPR classes over the years, I was able to take action. The EMTs and then cardiologists said I definitely saved his life.”

The Illinois Senate Women’s Caucus is encouraging all Illinoisans to learn CPR. For more information about Hands-Only CPR and how you can save a life, visit www.Heart.org/HandsOnlyCPR. To find a CPR class near you, visit www.Heart.org/CPR.

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