NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - It’s an early weekday morning in Centennial Park. People are jogging, walking their dogs, exercising, minding their own business… when suddenly the silence is interrupted by the voice of a woman, holding a mannequin, chasing people down.
“Can I have two minutes of your time?” she asks an elderly couple.
“Do you know how to save a life?” she asks a runner skipping past.
Perhaps stunned by the confrontational nature of her requests, most people stop and listen. At which point she invites them to join her, kneeling over her mannequin, to participate in a brief training session involving the simple steps of “hands-only CPR” – which consists of repeated chest compressions to the center of the chest, pushing two-inches deep, to the rhythm of the Bee Gees hit, Staying Alive.
It’s Dr. Katherine Brown, affectionately known in Nashville as “The CPR Lady”. Confronting strangers in public is one of her preferred methods of outreach. She’s doing it to teach as many people as possible some simple techniques that could be used to save a life.
“People don’t walk into Vanderbilt and say I’m here to have a cardiac arrest, it doesn’t happen that way. So to disrupt people’s comfort level is to go into non-traditional settings,” she says.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 325,000 lives each year.
“I found those numbers to be startling,” she says. It’s part of the reason Dr. Brown is passionate about teaching CPR. The other reason is personal. "My grandmother was a survivor of heart disease and stroke and my mother had pulmonary hypertension, so heart issues were always in my family."
She’s been working with the American Heart Association since she was 16, estimating she’s taught CPR to 250,000 Americans. Her lessons don’t always happen in the park. Sometimes they’re in crowded seminars, at bridal showers, inside a living room after a random door knock, she’s even taught CPR to patrons in a biker bar.
She says her goal is to make sure people are prepared to save a life, if the critical moment presents itself.
"My life is just living my passion, which is helping to save lives,” she says, adding, if you don’t know CPR, "Dr. Katherine Brown will be in your grocery store. I'll be at your front door. I'll be where you least expect me, helping to save a life."