Video: Man saves life after watching TODAY

  1. Transcript of: Man saves life after watching TODAY

    MATT LAUER, co-host: And this morning on TAKING HEALTH TO HEART TODAY , the importance of CPR . In one case, a TODAY show segment became the difference between life and death. Here's NBC 's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman .

    Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN reporting: Tom Maimone , a 52-year-old avid runner, considered himself in the best shape of his life.

    Mr. TOM MAIMONE: For the last 20 years, I have been in the gym on a regular basis five to seven days a week. I eat right, I don't smoke and I don't drink a drop.

    SNYDERMAN: But on April 25th , a 10-mile jog didn't end with the finish line he expected.

    Mr. MAIMONE: Apparently, I had a heart attack and dropped dead in somebody's driveway.

    SNYDERMAN: At the same time, Tom Elowson and his fiance were driving through the Delray Beach , Florida , neighborhood looking for a friend's home.

    Mr. TOM ELOWSON: The funny thing was, I had been there before, and yet for some reason that day we got lost, and we turned the corner and see Tom just collapsed.

    SNYDERMAN: As other bystanders called 911...

    Offscreen Voice (From 911 call): A man was jogging. He collapsed in a driveway here.

    SNYDERMAN: ... Elowson jumped out of the car. It was at that moment that he remembered something he'd seen on a familiar television show .

    Mr. ELOWSON: I don't know how I thought of this. It just came to me that I had seen Matt Lauer a few months before doing new CPR technique to the disco song of " Staying Alive ."

    (Beginning of clip from previous TODAY show )

    LAUER: Why is that a song you should have in your mind at this particular moment?

    Unidentified Woman: Because that has a beat of about 103 beats a minute, and so that can get you back into the correct rhythm. So we got -- need to be a little bit quicker. One and two and three and four and five...

    (End of clip)

    Mr. ELOWSON: I had only watched about 90 seconds and it was enough to give me the confidence to try this. (singing) Ooh , ooh, ooh, ooh, staying alive , staying alive .

    SNYDERMAN: It's called hands-only CPR . By pumping the middle of Tom's chest like this, blood carried oxygen to the brain and the heart while they waited for paramedics to arrive. The paramedics were then able to stabilize Tom and take him to the hospital, where doctors inserted a stent.

    Mr. MAIMONE: What I had learned was that I had a 97 percent blockage in my heart.

    SNYDERMAN: But thanks to a series of coincidences, Good Samaritans and fast thinking, Tom got a new chance at life.

    Mr. MAIMONE: On April 25th I died. I got a new birthday and I'm back thanks to perfect strangers .

    SNYDERMAN: Who have now become very special friends.

    Mr. MAIMONE: Thanks, Tom.

    SNYDERMAN: For TODAY, Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

    LAUER: Tom Maimone and Tom Elowson are here along with Dr. Benjamin Abella , an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania . Good morning to all of you.

    Dr. BENJAMIN ABELLA: Good morning.

    Mr. ELOWSON: Good morning.

    Mr. MAIMONE: Thanks, Matt.

    LAUER: How are you feeling?

    Mr. MAIMONE: Very good.

    LAUER: Yeah?

    Mr. MAIMONE: Happy as heck to be here.

    LAUER: I can -- it certainly beats the alternative, doesn't it?

    Mr. MAIMONE: Oh, yeah.

    LAUER: What freaks me out about this is you -- you're in perfect health. You were a runner. You didn't smoke, you didn't drink and this could happen to you. It had to come as a complete shock.

    Mr. MAIMONE: Right out of nowhere, absolutely nowhere. I was -- had a complete physical in January the 23rd. Everything's good, keep doing what you're doing. And I did. I kept running and went out, ran 10 miles and made it nine and a half miles home.

    LAUER: End up in a driveway and that's when you turn the corner.

    Mr. ELOWSON: Yeah.

    LAUER: Please don't sing "Stayin'_Alive" again. Please. I beg of you, all right?

    Mr. ELOWSON: I promise.

    LAUER: OK. But, I mean, you were in the right place at the right time, and what made you have the presence of mind under that tense circumstance to remember this?

    Mr. ELOWSON: Well, it was absolutely amazing. I mean, I thank God that we were in the right place at the right time and that I was able to remember that segment, and I think that's what we're here today, is to really promote the awareness of a simple as doing chest compressions to the right rhythm can really make a difference in your chance for survival.

    LAUER: Yeah, Doctor, there are -- CPR can seem complicated, but if you can remember one basic like Tom here did...

    Dr. ABELLA: That's right.

    LAUER: ...that can save a life.

    Dr. ABELLA: Absolutely. And I think one of the problems is that people don't fully appreciate that CPR can double or even triple the chance of survival. I mean, it's that impressive. And you really can't hurt someone doing CPR . I mean, they're already technically dead.

    TEXT: Taking Health to Heart Today About 80% of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in private residential settings Bystander CPR , provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can double a victim's chance of survival

    Mr. ELOWSON: That's what I thought. That's exactly what I thought.

    Mr. MAIMONE: I'm living proof .

    LAUER: Yeah, exactly.

    Mr. ELOWSON: I can't hurt him.

    LAUER: I mean, you couldn't do any more damage than he was already experiencing at that time.

    Mr. MAIMONE: I'm dead.

    Dr. ABELLA: That's right. And so I think the important thing is if people remember to put the hands in the middle of the chest and push hard and push fast that alone can make a a remarkable difference in bringing people back.

    LAUER: And the American Heart Association is now talking about hands-only CPR .

    TEXT: Taking Health to Heart Today CPR helps maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain Approximately 95% of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital If CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival fall 7 to 10% for every minutes of delay Coronary heart disease accounts for about 446,000 adults who die annually from cardiovascular disease

    Dr. ABELLA: That's right.

    LAUER: So, it takes the mouth-to-mouth part out of it. Do you think that's going to save more lives?

    Dr. ABELLA: Absolutely. I think a lot of people are afraid of doing mouth-to-mouth.

    Mr. ELOWSON: Mm-hmm.

    Dr. ABELLA: I think mouth-to-mouth is difficult to understand and the coordination is hard to do. And so in a moment of panic, it's too much, it's too much.

    Mr. ELOWSON: Yeah, yeah.

    Dr. ABELLA: And I think that for these very practical reasons, just doing the compressions alone can make a huge difference.

    LAUER: I'm going to put you through this one more time.

    Mr. MAIMONE: Oh, please.

    LAUER: Because you were unconscious the last time this happened. All right, go ahead, do it. What's the song?

    Mr. MAIMONE: Yeah.

    LAUER: Come on. Go ahead.

    Mr. MAIMONE: (Hands over his ears) Go.

    Mr. ELOWSON: Well, I have to thank you for being the chain of survival, Matt.

    LAUER: Go.

    Mr. MAIMONE: Go ahead, go ahead.

    Mr. ELOWSON: So it's a privilege. (Singing) ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, staying alive .

updated 10/28/2009 9:21:33 AM ET 2009-10-28T13:21:33

Heart attacks aren't just for older, overweight men with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Doctors are seeing patients in their 40s come in with heart disease due to self-inflicted risk factors, according to Ilan Wittstein, M.D., an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute. Middle-aged men need to be on guard. Even if you work out and eat healthy, you could still be at risk.

Beware of risk factors
"In half of the cases of heart attacks, the heart attack is the first time the patient finds out about heart disease," says Richard A. Stein, director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. More than 60 percent of heart attacks have to do with simple lifestyle issues, such as diet, exercise and cigarette smoking, and easy to detect and treat medical issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. "Men need to know about the risk factors that predict the majority of heart disease cases," Stein says.

Stress less
Research shows that not only do you have to watch your diet, exercise, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol to prevent a heart attack, it's imperative to be aware of your family history and to manage your stress level. According to the 2004 INTERHEART study in the Lancet, stress is one of three main risk factors for coronary artery disease, and is responsible for a fifth of heart attacks worldwide.

Stress played a very important role in what may have caused the heart attack of Ken Lay, the founder of Enron Corp, says Wittstein. Convicted of conspiracy and fraud, Lay faced 25 to 40 years in prison before his untimely death. "If we look at medical literature over time, we find many good examples of how stress can have a profound affect on the heart," says Wittstein, who co-authored last year's study on "broken heart syndrome" in the New England Journal of Medicine. "We can't prove that heart attacks can be caused by stress, but we know that people who are under higher stress, have a greater risk of developing heart disease," Wittstein adds.

Release the pressure
But it's possible to lessen your risk of heart disease by using calming stress management techniques, say these experts. Duke University Medical researchers conducted a study with 107 patients who had a history of heart problems. To lower the risk of future heart attacks, researchers divided the patients into three treatment groups; a third of the group exercised, another third received standard care, and the last third learned stress management techniques through 4 months of therapy and training. The stress management group fared the best with a 74 percent reduction in cardiac events over the 5-year analysis.

Video: A heart attack at 39 Stress management techniques can include getting therapy, or be as simple as taking up yoga, practicing tai chi or using meditation techniques for five minutes every day. "It's proven that relaxation techniques lower blood pressure and improve bloodflow," Dr. Wittsetin says.

Modify your lifestyle
Below we provide you with risk factors to be aware of and simple modifications you can make to your lifestyle today to lessen the probability of a heart attack down the road.

Starting in your mid-to-late 30's, take measures to prevent heart disease by doing the following:

1. Be aware of major risk factors: Hypertension, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, having a family history of heart disease, and diabetes are all major risk factors that could increase your probability of having a heart attack.

2. Make a lifestyle change: Think of the things that are in your power to change, like improving your diet, getting exercise, and quitting smoking. Eat seven to nine fruits and vegetables each day, says Dr. Stein, who recommends the Dash Diet, a Mediterranean, fruit-and-vegetable-based diet that can be downloaded online for free. Get at least 2 hours of moderately intensive exercise each week, recommends Dr. Stein.

3. Make an appointment to be evaluated: If you have a family history of heart attacks, or you think you're at risk, spend 45-minutes to an hour with a preventive cardiologist at your local hospital. The evaluation and blood test will reveal your HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting lipid profile, blood pressure, and family history. "Don't wait until you are in your 50s to get a formal assessment," Dr. Wittstein says. From this checkup, the doctor will be able to determine if you need to have a non-invasive scan of your heart to look for problems, or if you need to be prescribed medication like statins.

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Heart attack warning signs

4. Don't deny cardiac symptoms: If you're experiencing "shortness of breath or chest pains from exertion, get to the hospital right away," warns Dr. Stein, who had a friend die from a heart attack last year, after experiencing chest pains while riding his bike.

5. Use medication: "If a physician recommends it, get started on medication, like statins, that can help you modify your risk factor," Dr. Wittstein says. If you have a family history or believe you are at risk, also take a 81-160 mg aspirin tablet each day as a precaution. "For a 40-year-old man with a strong family history of heart attacks, a baby aspirin would be reasonable," he says.

Extra: If you're under high stress, take up meditation, yoga, tai chi, or practice any other relaxation technique for five minutes every day. "Exercise can relieve a lot of stress for people," Wittstein says. "People who exercise on a regular basis, are less likely to have heart disease or die from a heart attack later in life."

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