Officer shares life-saving mission to teach public CPR

The number one killer in America is sudden cardiac arrest - when the heart just stops beating. One Minnesota man is on a personal mission to make sure you know how to perform CPR.

"Everything you've learned up until today, throw it out the window," said Officer Bryan Platz.

With the drive of a drill sergeant, he barks out basic training instructions that can save a life.

Over the past four years, Platz has trained some 20,000 Minnesotans in a new kind of CPR. And at least six people are alive today thanks to his efforts.

Their joy is the direct result of his sorrow after his uncle Todd Plohasz died.

"He was a father figure to me, he really was," Bryan said.

Five years ago this month, Todd was out for a swim with his wife Mary when suddenly his uncle's heart stopped.

"He got one hand up, and then he went under," Mary said.

Todd would've died on the spot, had Mary not gotten him to shore to start CPR.

"She threw away all logic, all reason, all fear and she started CPR on him, and that was the reason we got those eight more months, and they were awesome…wouldn't trade it for the world,” he said.

The lack of oxygen to Todd's brain while he was in the water robbed him of his speech, short term memory and his ability to swallow. But, his spirit stayed strong to the end.

"We got eight months to say goodbye and tell Todd how much we loved him. That was a gift," Bryan said.

It was also the start of Platz's cardiac crusade.

It's because of Platz that Denise Klint knew what to do when co-worker Tanitha Johnson collapsed at her desk this spring.

“I'm just so thankful everybody who had a part in me still being here… I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Klint helped save Johnson's life by immediately starting chest compressions until first responders arrived with an AED to shock her heart back into a normal rhythm.

Platz will randomly approach people to take what he calls "guerrilla CPR," a two-minute crash course in how to recognize and help someone in sudden cardiac arrest.

And because of Platz, Coon Rapids is now a "heart safe" community, meaning thousands have taken the training and AED's are available in many buildings.

His classes include a video he produced: a reenactment of an actual case in which bystander CPR helped save an auto mechanic from a sudden cardiac arrest.

Platz also recruited some of his own relatives to appear in the videos, including his aunt Mary.

"I wanted my family there with me so they could still see how meaningful Todd's life is, and the value of his tragedy and how we could take this tragedy and really turn it into something good," he said.

Officer Platz has taken his training program across the country and across the pond; he helped start similar programs in states like Illinois and California and also in England. Uncle Todd, he says, is with him everywhere he goes.

CPR training video.