PARKVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — The nationwide shift to hands-only CPR is saving lives. Baltimore County has several cases, and Thursday, it honored medics and firefighters who recently used the technique.

As Gigi Barnett explains, the ceremony also renewed county leaders’ push to get more people certified.

It’s what saves lives–hands-only CPR and automated defibrillators. Ask 16-year-old Elise Fellner. Three months ago, she had a heart attack at school while trying out for the volleyball team.

“I didn’t expect it. I thought I was a normal, healthy girl and then this happened,” she said.

“This could have happened when I was walking the dog, when I was fishing, when I was sleeping,” said 31-year-old Chris Malczewski.

Malczewski’s heart attack struck last year on a soccer field. He was playing on a men’s league. One of the guys grabbed an automated defibrillator.

“He put the AED on me and I popped back up,” Malczewski said.

Malczewski and Elise’s stories were retold Thursday at an awards ceremony at the Baltimore County Parkville Fire Station to thank the firefighters and medics who rushed in to save them and recognize those who called 911 and knew what to do in a heartbeat.

For Elise, it was her coach, Debbie Most, who is also a nurse.

“Nobody panicked and there was no hysteria. We just did what we needed to do to save her life,” Most said.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 350,000 people die every year because of it. That’s why the county and medics want everyone to learn hands-only CPR.

“Every minute counts, every minute before we get there really makes a difference. And that’s why the community piece and the hands-only CPR is really a big part of the success story,” said Lt. Tim Rostkowski, Baltimore County paramedic.

Elise and Malczewski both made full recoveries from their heart attacks. Malczewski says doctors still can’t find anything wrong with his heart. At Elise’s school, auto defibrillators are now required at all sporting events.

Altogether, five heart attack survivors were honored at Thursday’s ceremony.

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