Alison Rowe, of East Setauket, practices CPR as her son...

Alison Rowe, of East Setauket, practices CPR as her son William, 2, piggybacks on her. His grandmother Carol Lorigan is seen right with his cousin Hunter Phillips, 2, at Stony Brook University Sunday afternoon on Sept. 7, 2014 in Stony Brook. The exercise at the college was to train people with the important tools of knowing CPR. Credit: James Carbone

About 1,000 people -- college students, families and community members -- gathered inside a sun-splashed Stony Brook University's Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Sunday, but they weren't there for a Seawolves football game.

They were assembled on the stadium's green field turf hoping to learn how to save a life by practicing hands-only CPR on one of 258 mannequins at an event sponsored by the university's School of Medicine.

Hands-only CPR is a technique that uses chest compression but not mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive someone stricken with sudden cardiac arrest, said Edward Stapleton, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Stony Brook University who helped instruct attendees. Stapleton said it can "keep the brain and head viable until the victim can be shocked back to a normal heart rhythm."

The event's goal was to encourage "more people to do CPR because to do hands-only, you don't need to do mouth-to-mouth," Stapleton said.

When hands-only CPR is practiced on victims of sudden cardiac arrest, the chance of survival is tripled, Stapleton said. The survival for cardiac arrest patients is 5.9 percent in Suffolk County, compared with 16.8 percent in Seattle, where an aggressive CPR education program is already in place, he said.

Stapleton said studies show hands-only CPR is at least or even more effective than traditional CPR on sudden cardiac arrest victims. However, traditional CPR -- with mouth-to-mouth breaths -- is better for asphyxiations or drownings when oxygen is deprived, he said.

TracyAnn and Howard Martin came to the event so their three young children could learn the lifesaving technique. "They learn about everything else -- why not CPR?" said TracyAnn of Middle Island.

Though she had read about CPR techniques in textbooks, Julia Eng, a freshman studying biology at Stony Brook, said the exercise made her feel "more secure, prepared. I know what to expect."

Sudden cardiac arrest survivor Steven Tannenbaum, 61, of Merrick was on hand as a volunteer. He was playing in a softball game in 2009 when he "keeled over," he said, and two people nearby arrived to perform CPR on him.

Tannenbaum said he has since trained 5,000 people in the technique. "I decided to try to help," he said.

Stapleton said he plans more versions of the CPR event, perhaps at other large venues on Long Island.

"The impact of an event like this is hard to measure, but if 19 people do hands-only CPR, those people [they treat] have a much greater chance of surviving," he said.

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