police-light-bar1.jpgSan Francisco firefighters, paramedics and city officials stressed learning basic life-saving techniques at a press conference this morning kicking off National CPR/AED Awareness Week.

Methods like the American Heart Association’s “Hands-Only CPR” saved Ken Byk’s life after he crossed the finish line of last year’s Bay to Breakers race.

Byk, who suffered a heart attack immediately after completing the race, said numerous bystanders and fellow participants assisted him.

One of the good Samaritans attending to Byk was Ruth Rodgers, an anesthesiologist who had just crossed the finish line when her husband noticed Byk collapse, he said.

Rodgers gave Byk CPR for more than 20 minutes before his pulse was restored.

Byk was taken to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, where he suffered a second heart attack and it took five minutes to revive him.

Three days later, the 52-year-old received a quadruple bypass to relieve his three main arteries, which were more than 90 percent blocked, Byk said.

Performing CPR dramatically increased the chances of Byk’s survival, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said today, but Byk had a long road to recovery and said he was grateful to be alive.

“Thank you for saving my life,” Byk told Rodgers when he met her for the first time “while conscious” earlier this year.

Although there are more than 40 advanced life support ambulances available from the San Francisco Fire Department, it is not enough, Deputy Chief Pat Gardner said.

The minutes after someone collapses can prove to be the most valuable, Gardner said.

“We need you, each and every citizen of San Francisco … to stop and help out,” said Anne Kronenberg, the executive director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

Chest compression is the most important part of CPR, and instructions can be given over the phone from a trained 911 dispatcher, she said.

Now 53, Byk crossed the finish line of the 100th annual Bay to Breakers race last month, marking an important milestone.

“I would not be standing here today were it not for CPR,” Byk said.

Those who wish to learn “Hands-Only CPR,” can visit www.handsonlycpr.org to watch an instructional video or download a guided smartphone application.

For full CPR instruction, visit www.heart.org/cpr and enter a zip code to find the closest class.

CPR volunteers can download an iPhone application at www.sffireapp.org to receive notifications of nearby cardiac arrest victims who need assistance.

Rachel Purdy, Bay City News

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