Fresh off her honeymoon, Lynn Blake, a fit, healthy, 27-year-old Vail resident, was starting a new job at the Vail Valley Partnership when she collapsed. A coworker whom Blake had never met, immediately started chest compressions. First responders from the Vail Fire Department and the Eagle County Paramedic Services arrived within minutes. A paramedic shocked Blake’s heart with a defibrillator before she was transferred by ambulance to a hospital.
Immensely grateful for her survival, Blake began to research sudden cardiac arrest. Through her research, she discovered a new calling that helped to give her experience meaning and purpose.
Blake founded a local nonprofit called Starting Hearts in 2010. But the lack of data hindered her efforts to fund it. Eventually, Blake developed a 45-minute CPR course that she could offer for free and trademarked the phrase “Call, Push, Shock,” the three things one must do after a cardiac arrest, a la “Stop, Drop, Roll” in fire training. Instead of teaching eight people at a time, like in traditional CPR courses, she trained entire school assemblies or business staff — sometimes more than a thousand people a week.
She also got Eagle County — and, later, the state — to begin participating in the nationwide Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival, or CARES, a voluntary reporting program that collects incidence data and is overseen by the CDC and Emory University.
Over time, Starting Hearts, with financial support from Vail Health, placed more than 200 defibrillators around Eagle County, everywhere from chairlifts to police cars to schools to shopping centers. AEDs, which cost about $1,200 each and were not publicly available until the 1980s, are used in less than 3% of cardiac arrests, yet victims who suffer an arrest near an AED are twice as likely to survive.