EAST ELMHURST, N.Y. (PIX11) – A Queens mother has made it her mission to make sure no one suffers a loss like she did when not a single person knew how to perform CPR on her 17-year-old son when he had a cardiac arrest episode during a basketball game more than a decade ago.
Melinda Murray-Nyack is training the next generation of life-savers and on Friday, she was at McClancy High School in East Elmhurst, Queens showing students how to perform hands-only CPR and how to use an AED, an automated external defibrillator which is the device that shocks the heart back into its normal rhythm.
Her son Dominic Murray attended the same school and died 13 years ago this week after shooting a layup during a basketball game at Farmingdale State College.
“No one knew what to do right away,” Murray-Nyack said. “No one recognized that he was in distress from a sudden cardiac arrest episode, so it delayed CPR and an AED wasn’t used until EMS arrived.”
Had someone begun CPR immediately, she said Dominic would probably be here today.
As a volunteer with the American Heart Association, her advocacy has helped 26,000 people learn CPR and AED training, with at least four lives being saved.
“I wanted to make sure what happened to Dominic didn’t happen to another child,” she added.
Diego Ortiz is a director with the American Heart Association and said Murray-Nyack was able to take a tragedy and turn it into a triumph.
“She’s helped pass legislation that’s going to impact millions of lives throughout New York state,” Ortiz said.
CPR training is now required in all New York state high schools in order for students to graduate.
Dominic’s Law also went into effect this year which will send information home to parents on cardiac arrest signs, symptoms, risks, and prevention.
Students like Vincent Gangone are glad to learn life-saving techniques at the high school.
“It was informative and I got to learn with my friends and it’s important because it could happen to anyone,” Gangone said.
Despite passing every sports preparation physical and annual check-up, Dominic’s congenital heart condition wasn’t revealed until his autopsy. Melinda’s work has also resulted in 6,000 young hearts being screened, with at least 104 young people being identified as at-risk.
To identify even more young people who are at risk and prevent tragic deaths like Dominic’s, the school will host its own heart screenings in the spring, which is expected to check potential heart conditions for 400 people.