Cincinnati Zoo Worker Saves Visitor with Philips HeartStart OnSite AED

Post by Becky Becker

In May, 2011 Terry Huffman, age 55 was a chaperone for his 9 year old nephew’s class on a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo when he suffered a major cardiac arrest.  As “luck” would have it, he was the fortunate recipient of a zoo employees’ Red Cross training, quick thinking response and the availability of a Philips HeartStart OnSite AED.  Sara Benjamin, the Zoo’s security operations supervisor had previously completed the Red Cross CPR and AED training as a requirement for her job.  She was in her office when she received the call that someone had collapsed.

What followed reflected the training Sara had received, and how a sudden cardiac arrest event should be responded to.

  1. She called 9-1-1
  2. She jumped on to the first-aid golf cart immediately.
  3. She made a mental note to make sure she grabbed the Philips HeartStart OnSite AED off the cart when she arrived at the victim’s location.
  4. She determined that Huffman was not breathing.
  5. She began CPR rescue breathing and chest compressions.
  6. She enlisted the help of bystander that had CPR experience to continue CPR.
  7. She readied the AED.
  8. She positioned the pads on Huffman’s body and the defibrillator analyzed his heart rhythm.
  9. The defibrillator determined that he needed an electrical shock which was delivered.
  10. At that time, the Cincinnati Fire Dept personnel arrived and were ready with their own defibrillator.


What transpired soon after Sara received the call was what is commonly referred to as the “Chain of  Survival”.  This has 4 steps and each one is required for a positive outcome.


The adult Chain of Survival has 4 vital links:

Early Access—Recognizing that an emergency exists and quickly phoning EMS (emergency medical services). In most communities, 911 is the EMS number.

Early CPR—Starting CPR immediately after cardiac arrest. CPR circulates oxygen-rich blood to the brain and heart. It buys time for the victim until defibrillation can be performed.

Early Defibrillation—Defibrillating the victim as soon as the AED arrives. This is most effective within 3 to 5 minutes.

Early Advanced Care—Trained healthcare providers arriving quickly to give advanced care.


Defibrillation is the only effective therapy for ventricular fibrillation.For each minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation,the chance of survival decreases 7% to 10%.

On January 25, 2012 the Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region of the American Red Cross presented the Certificate of Merit Award to Sara Benjamin.  This is the highest life-saving award issued by the American Red Cross and is given to a nominated person who has successfully completed a Red Cross course in first Aid CPR and AED training and saves or sustains a human life.  The award was given to Sara because she exemplifies the importance of being trained in CPR and how that training was put into service to save Huffman’s life.  It was noted that because sudden cardiac arrest care is a race against the clock, Sara’s training, quick thinking and action were all required to have the positive outcome that was achieved.

“Bystander” CPR is critical for the survival of a sudden cardiac arrest victim, but is only one of the requirements in order to reach the positive outcome of surviving the event.  Having an AED accessible and ready to use within 5 minutes of the victim collapsing is the second and more critical requirement because Defibrillation is the only effective therapy for ventricular fibrillation. For each minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation,the chance of survival decreases 7% to 10%.  Sara Benjamin says “The Cincinnati Zoo has a total of 5 Philips HeartStart OnSite AEDs on their premises, including the one on the first aid cart.”

It is gratifying when the Chain of Survival is successful as it was in Huffman’s case in May, 2011. Today, Sara also says that Huffman is doing well and back at work.  Training and education are the key factors in continuing to improve sudden cardiac arrest survival statistics.

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