Saturday 01 Nov 2014

Information and opinions presented here do not always represent the views of the American Heart Association.

STORIES FROM THE HEART: Lifting a 3,500-pound car was only the start to saving her dad’s life; knowing CPR made a difference, too

Published: 9:00 am CDT, June 5, 2014

One summer afternoon, 22-year-old Lauren Kornacki arrived home from her job as a lifeguard with hopes of borrowing the family car to go visit her best friend.

The car was in the garage being worked on by her dad, Alec Kornacki. He was trying to fix a brake problem.

When Lauren went in the garage, she discovered something horrific. The jack had slipped out of position, pinning her dad underneath the nearly 3,500-pound vehicle.

“All I could think was my dad wasn’t OK,” Lauren said. “I just knew I had to get him out of harm’s way.”

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Lauren’s scream brought her mother, Liz, and younger sister Allison to the garage. She shouted at them to call 9-1-1 and began throwing herself at the car, eventually pulling her dad free.

Once he was out, Lauren realized her father wasn’t breathing, so she began to administer CPR.

Her fast work paid off. By the time the EMTs arrived, Alec had resumed breathing, although he wasn’t yet conscious.

She still wonders what made it possible for her to lift the car, a 1995 BMW.

“Adrenaline? Luck? I don’t know what it was,” she said. “I’m just happy I was able to save my dad.”

Alec’s arm was draped across his chest when the car fell on him, which may have spared him worse injuries. He lost feeling in the arm for three months due to nerve damage, fractured four vertebrae and had five broken ribs.

A triathlete at the time, Alec recovered relatively quickly, in part, doctors told the family, because he was so fit.

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An incident at Lauren’s job a week earlier may have helped her readiness.

A boy hit his head on the bottom of the pool, and Lauren sprang into action, stabilizing his spine and calling for an ambulance. The boy turned out to be OK and didn’t need CPR, but pool officials considered it a good reason to hold a CPR refresher class for its employees.

“Everything was fresh in my mind,” said Lauren, who’d been trained in CPR for six years. “None of my other family members would have been able to do it. Fortunately, I had the CPR training that was so important for us.”

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The accident galvanized the Kornacki family, who live in Richmond, Va., to become ardent advocates for CPR training.

“I hope no one has to go through the situation we did, but I hope that if they do, they’ll be trained in what to do,” Lauren said.

Now 24, Lauren continues to share her story at community events and with cardiac survivors. She also volunteers at American Heart Association events such as the Heart Walk and promoting Hands-Only CPR kits.

Lauren and Alec appeared on the television show “The Doctors” to share their story and promote Hands-Only CPR.

The American Heart Association helped pioneer CPR more than 50 years ago, and continues to refine this lifesaving technique. The organization trains over 14 million people each year in 60-plus countries. Even without formal training, anyone can be a lifesaver by remembering the steps to “Hands-Only CPR” – call 9-1-1, then push hard and fast in the center of the chest, preferably to the beat of the classic disco song, “Stayin’ Alive” until help arrives. This is a great time to learn the lifesaving skill, as the first week in June is CPR Awareness Week.

Bystanders play a critical role in emergency situations, but as many as 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to respond because they either don’t know how to administer CPR or their training has lapsed.

“It’s really important to me,” Lauren said. “There’s no reason not to know CPR.”

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Photos courtesy of Kornacki family

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Do you know a “Story from the Heart” we should tell?

Send an email to stories@heart.org that’s as brief or as detailed as you’d like.

Previous “Stories from the Heart” include:

Retired Coast Guard Senior Chief shares story to educate others – especially men

Potential Memorial Day tragedy avoided thanks to family, friends who knew CPR

‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do’ – like this survivor of a stroke when she was 15

  • hhiati

    I agree, l had CPR preformed on me last year.