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Damar Hamlin's life-saving case inspires Lehigh Valley residents to learn CPR

Eight people attended a free cardiac arrest intervention course at Cetronia Ambulance Corps in South Whitehall Township.
Julian Abraham
Eight people attended a free cardiac arrest intervention course at Cetronia Ambulance Corps in South Whitehall Township.

Lynn Nagel stood in front of the classroom Saturday, offering snacks, soda and beige CPR dummies to the room.

"There are moments in life I wish we could freeze in time," she began. "What is life if we cannot experience these moments of joy, wonder and happiness?

"We want people to experience more of life's precious moments, and in order to do this, we must be healthy in our lives and in our mind," she said.

Cetronia Ambulance Corps in Lehigh County's South Whitehall Township hosted Family & Friends CPR classes Saturday. Some who signed up said they were inspired to take the class by Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle during a Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Millions saw it happen on "Monday Night Football," and class participants said it brought the idea of learning relatively simple life-saving techniques closer to home.

"You know, this country is so divisive and squabbling with each other. That it almost takes either a 9/11 airplane crash or an injured football player to unite the country," said Dick Manning, one of those who took the class.

"Everybody gets behind that," Manning said. "It's kind of miraculous to look at when you think about it."

The two-hour course was organized by Cetronia Ambulance Corps and held at their headquarters outside Allentown.

It's the same building where medical examiners perform autopsies, about 50 ambulances are stored, and even contains the parking spot for an armored SWAT vehicle. There is also a room with dozens of screens and walkie-talkies, where a team dispatches ambulances and monitors webcams showing busy roads to see where rescuers might need to be sent.

Class members were taught adult and child CPR, as well as how to use an AED, or automated external defibrillator.

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Sandy Diacogiannis said she was directly inspired by the Hamlin case to learn CPR.

She was watching the game that night, and decided she would feel better if she knew what to do if she was ever in a situation where someone needed help like that.

"I was ... absolutely shocked because number one, you didn't know what was going on," she said. "And it became so scary, that this young person is just completely knocked out. He's not moving. And immediately, they knew something was wrong."

Diacogiannis said she feels peace-of-mind in now knowing what to do if someone near her suffers a cardiac arrest.

"What we learned today was really, the instructors were wonderful," she said. "It gives you a lot of confidence that you could do it, and you know what to do."

Nagel said the eight students who finished the morning course are now protected by the Good Samaritan Law, which means they cannot be sued during an earnest attempt to provide CPR or AED machine assistance.

Generally, Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to any person who renders emergency care or gives reasonable assistance to someone else in distress.