Danette Purvis learned a new way to administer CPR on Oct. 6, during a break in an extracurricular cosmetology class. Less than 24 hours later, the 45-year-old used the procedure to save the life of a colleague who collapsed.
On Wednesday, the District’s fire chief and mayor honored Purvis, along with co-workers, firefighters and police officers who helped save the life of Kenneth Miles. Miles, who is in his 60s, suffered a heart attack at the start of a budget meeting for a nonprofit group located in Dupont Circle.
“We’re excited to celebrate a life saved,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser told the group in the firehouse bay of Engine 9 at 16th and U streets NW. “Here is what can happen when you have a group of colleagues and strangers working together.”
Gregory Dean, the chief of fire and emergency medical services, said Purvis is among 12,000 people who live or work in the District now trained in Hands-Only CPR, which involves chest compressions but eliminates mouth-to-mouth and sticking fingers into mouths to clean airways.
“It’s easy, and it save lives,” Bowser said.
“I don’t know why we can’t train every person in the District,” Dean said.
Dean and his teams have fanned out across the District teaching the technique on street corners at night, at neighborhood festivals and in government and private offices. Purvis learned at one of those sessions. Studies show that 50 percent of people who get CPR within five minutes of suffering a heart attack survive.
People are taught to compress to the beat of the popular song Stayin’ Alive, which provides the 100 to 120 beats per minute that is ideal for patients. Purvis said she compressed Miles’s chest while humming “Row, row, row your boat.”
Purvis told the crowd gathered at the fire station that she was more nervous speaking in public than she was when Miles collapsed. Purvis, who holds a master’s degree in accounting, and Miles work at FHI360, a nonprofit human development organization that helps integrate experts in health, education, nutrition and research into the lives of local people in 70 countries around the world.
Another co-worker, Debbie Goodman, said Miles collapsed at the start of a budget meeting and that Purvis jumped in immediately to help. Purvis said at first she thought what she did was “no big deal.” But now, she said, “it feels good.” She and her adult son plan to take an advanced course in life-saving.
Miles couldn’t attend the ceremony because he is still recovering in a hospital. But one of his closest friends, Yvonka George, told the group that Miles was deeply appreciative. “He just wants to thank everybody for saving his life,” she said.”