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December 22, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Push for CPR classes gets boost from Heart Attack Grill staffers

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Joe Schoenmann

Jon Basso, Heart Attack Grill owner and known as the “doctor” to his customers, demonstrates on a foam ambulance the technique for performing compression-only CPR. Two servers – referred to as “nurses” at the restaurant – Taylor Sanders (obstructed) and Rikki Ogawa, assist. The demonstration, part of a promotion to increase interest in CPR lessons, was at Heart Attack Grill on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.

Four months after one of its most loyal customers died of a heart attack, the Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas hosted a media event Tuesday morning to promote cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes and compression-only CPR.

Jon Basso, Heart Attack Grill owner and known as the “doctor” to his customers, demonstrated compression-only CPR – 100 chest compressions per minute, and deep enough that sometimes ribs will crack – on foam ambulances. Two servers (known as nurses at the restaurant), Taylor Sanders and Rikki Ogawa, assisted.

“Push hard enough to flatten the tires” of the miniature ambulances, urged Marie Tasker, service delivery manager of the American Red Cross of Southern Nevada. “You see how difficult it is and how hard it is to push, and only stop when EMS arrives.”

The two young women giggled as their breathing grew heavier.

Scott Johnson, president of the Las Vegas Firefighters Association, which is teaming with Red Cross to promote CPR classes, said if people can perform compression-only CPR – that is, CPR without breathing into the mouth of a victim – it should buy the heart-attack victim enough time for an ambulance to arrive and more intense lifesaving efforts to take place.

“Just give us four minutes and we can save more lives,” he said.

Already, the Las Vegas Fire Department boasts one of the highest survival rates in the country for responding to heart-attack calls, at more than 26 percent. The national average is 5 to 6 percent. Johnson said Las Vegas' rate hovered near 5 percent in 2008, too. Survival rates increased, he said, after the department instituted new training, six-person rapid-response teams, the use of a circumferential CPR machine that mechanically compresses the chest, and the intravenous introduction of cooled saline solution to the patient.

If people try compression-only techniques on heart attack sufferers, Johnson expects the survival rate to reach 50 percent.

That doesn’t mean CPR training is doing away with breathing into the mouths of victims. But Tasker said some people won’t do the breathing part, and studies have shown compressions are the most effective part of the process.

So it’s better to do something than nothing at all.

As for using the Heart Attack Grill as a backdrop, the restaurant is an attention grabber not only for its high-calorie menu, it also made headlines in February when its unofficial spokesman, John Alleman, suffered a heart attack as he waited at the bus stop near the restaurant. He died several days later when he was taken off life support.

With waitresses in traditional nurse uniforms and Basso in a white medical coat, the restaurant plays on the medical theme; its slogan is “Taste worth dying for.” In 2012, Guinness World Records certified the restaurant's Quadruple Bypass Burger as “most calorific burger.” The 3-pound burger holds 9,982 calories.

Alleman was the second unofficial spokesman of the restaurant to die since it opened in October 2011.

“Gentle Giant” Blair River, 29 and 575 pounds, died of flu-related pneumonia in March 2011.

Other customers have eaten at the Grill and suffered possible heart ailments but lived to tell the story. In February 2012, a man suffered what was believed to be heart ailments while munching on a 6,000-calorie Triple Bypass Burger. Then in April 2012, a woman fell unconscious and was transported to the hospital while eating a Double Bypass Burger.

Basso isn’t blind to the fact that a diet that includes large doses of fat can endanger health.

“We’re a splurge restaurant,” he said. “We don’t tell anybody to each here every day. If you did, you would die.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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