By Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow
Genesis Triplett was with her friends when a loud alert sounded from her phone. Triplett, a Doctor of Occupational Therapy student in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, read the notification: someone in her apartment complex needed CPR.
The alert came from PulsePoint, a nonprofit organization that empowers CPR-trained individuals to provide lifesaving assistance to those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. When a call is made to emergency services, the dispatch center immediately notifies CPR-trained individuals near the scene via the PulsePoint Respond mobile app, so CPR can be provided even before first responders arrive. According to the American Heart Association, bystander CPR improves survival outcomes, and if performed immediately, CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival during an out of hospital cardiac arrest event.
In 2018, UF Health formed a PulsePoint task force that worked alongside first responders from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Gainesville Fire Rescue and Alachua County Fire Rescue to integrate the app with Alachua County’s 911 system. Since introducing PulsePoint to Alachua County, the local rate of bystander CPR has increased from about 40% — the national average — to over 65%.
Triplett signed up for the PulsePoint app as an undergraduate student during a CPR certification training. The app has three responder types: public CPR responders who are members of the public trained in CPR, registered CPR responders who are invited members of the community with medical or rescue training, and professional responders, such as firefighters or paramedics. As a future health practitioner, she thought the program was a great way to potentially help someone in need. She didn’t think much more about the app — until that first alert was activated.
Triplett recalls feelings of fear and nervousness, but after a few seconds, she jumped into action.
“The app asked me: ‘Are you able to help?’” she said. “When I saw it on my phone I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I can really help like this.’ My heart started beating fast. I just clicked yes, and I ran out to my car. My sister and two of my friends came with me; they also know CPR.”
The PulsePoint mobile app sent Triplett the individual’s location and details of how she could quickly get to their apartment. It was very easy to find their unit, she said, based on the directions the app provided.
“I parked my car right outside and knocked on the door,” Triplett said. “The person who answered the door was on the phone with emergency services. I said, ‘Hi, I’m from PulsePoint and I live nearby. I got an alert that someone needs CPR.’ I did the safety check, went through the steps I was taught during my certification, and I did CPR for 4 to 5 minutes until the EMTs arrived.”
PulsePoint provides an assistive feature with reminders for how to do CPR correctly, with the intention of supporting CPR-trained volunteers who are providing aid during stressful, life-threatening and adrenaline-fueled situations.
Additionally, the app has a metronome that provides the CPR-trained individuals with a compression rate that is played directly from a phone, helping to keep the individual providing aid on track.
This feature, Triplett said, is integral for civilians like her who are not familiar with giving CPR on a regular basis.
Triplett performed CPR until emergency services arrived, where she traded out with one of the EMTs until the patient was eventually transported to a local hospital.
The sooner a skilled individual can begin CPR, said Triplett, makes all the difference for someone with sudden cardiac arrest.
The PulsePoint Foundation agrees. According to its website, community first responders that are in the immediate vicinity of someone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest event, in conjunction with traditional emergency medical service response, can improve outcomes and enable critical life-sustaining interventions.
“I was there for at least 5 minutes,” Triplett said. “Without having oxygenated blood to the brain for so long, that can immensely make a difference in the amount of damage that’s done. Having someone there who’s able to do compressions or the respiratory breaths for any length of time makes a big difference.”
Reflecting on her experience, Triplett is grateful she signed up for PulsePoint, despite how scared she felt being called to provide CPR.
“This was the first time I’ve ever done CPR on an actual human,” she said. “Once I saw the alarm was PulsePoint, and someone was at risk of dying, I was nervous, but I had this adrenaline to go to the person and try to help as much as I could. I don’t think anyone ever really expects to actually do CPR when they get CPR training, but I felt a responsibility to help this person in need.”
For Triplett, helping others and being supportive in tough situations is one of her biggest priorities, and part of the reason she decided to pursue a career in occupational therapy.
“I’ve thought before, ‘What if I hadn’t downloaded the app? Would someone have been able to help this person?’” Triplett said. “It made me reflect on how there are so many people in the world who may be in situations like this that either don’t get help at all or have less desirable outcomes because they’re not able to get help as quickly. If there’s ever a situation again where I could use my background in health education and skills as an OT student to be of assistance, I definitely would.”
Triplett encourages anyone who is CPR-trained or interested in becoming CPR-certified to sign up for PulsePoint.
“Trust yourself, trust your skills and what you’ve learned or will learn through CPR training,” she said. “In that moment when you’re getting trained, you may not feel as if you’re getting the full experience because it’s simulated, but you know more than you think you do, and any little bit is helpful in a situation like that.”
“I’m just grateful I had the opportunity to do what I did, and I would encourage other students, even if you haven’t heard of PulsePoint before, to investigate it. And if you’re comfortable enough with downloading the app, to just go ahead and do it, because you never know how you can impact someone’s life.”
To learn more about hands-only CPR and PulsePoint, please visit UF Health hands-only CPR.