A lifesaving layover at O’Hare

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CHICAGO — Layovers at O’Hare airport can be legendary. So the American Heart Association wants you to make use of your time next while you’re stuck there.

One college kid did … in Texas last year.

At 21, and a junior at University of Dayton, Matt Lickenbrock was studying mechanical engineering last April. On his way home from spring break, he was stuck at the Dallas Fort-Worth airport. Yep, a lay over. The son of two doctors, Lickenbrock was bored, so he saddled up to one of these machines to learn how to do hands-only CPR. it was part of a pilot program there in 2015. By the third try, he nailed it. 100 percent.

Little did he know that two days later a major rainstorm on campus would force Lickenrbrock to test his new skills on a perfect stranger, a fellow student.

CPR is no easy feat. At O’Hare airport Julie Unruh learned first hand how tough it is to get the hands only CPS just right.  Still, the experts say doing something is better than doing nothing. Danielle Cortes Devito is with the American Heart Association. She says a person in cardiac arrest needs chest compressions within 4-6 minutes of hitting the ground.

To the beat of the Bee Gees and the song “Staying Alive,” rookies at O’Hare have to learn how to do 100-120 compressions per minute.

Tim Polumbo from Oregon tried it. He failed.

Matt Lickenbrock’s story has a much better ending. Sean Ferguson is alive and well one year later after Lickenbrock saved his life from what Matt had recently learned on a layover.

It took weeks to get out of the hospital. But  Ferguson, then a senior, has largely made a full recovery, and will be forever bonded with Lickenbrock.

Sean calls it divine intervention. Both of them are on a mission to spread the word about learning CPR and practicing it at an airport next time you’re stuck at one, whether it be in Chicago, Dallas, Indy, Baltimore, Atlanta or Las Vegas.

The two men say travelers with nothing but time, have no excuse. they are proof practice makes perfect. Someone’s life may depend on it.

O’Hare’s program is not a true certification, just a tool we all can use to help in a crisis until paramedics arrive. Breaths are still important, but research has found, people are not eager to perform CPR on another person. The compressions alone can make a difference.

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