WNBA star Tina Charles started a charity in 2013 to increase awareness and preparedness for sudden cardiac arrest, a cause that has come to the forefront after the on-field collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Monday.
The 2012 WNBA MVP founded Hopey’s Heart Foundation to honor her aunt, Maureen “Hopey” Vaz, who died of multiple organ failure in March 2013. The organization provides AED donations and CPR training to schools and community centers.
Hopey’s Heart Foundation has donated 447 AEDs to date, per its website.
“I see it as the more AEDs out there we can help combat sudden cardiac arrest,” Charles said in 2014. “The more AEDs out there the better chance people will have.”
When Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during the Bills’ Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, medical personnel rushed onto the field, where they performed CPR and used an AED to help the 24-year-old. He remains in critical condition Wednesday at a Cincinnati hospital.
CPR helps blood to pump through the body, and an AED (which stands for automated external defibrillator) sends an electrical shock to the heart to restore its rhythm.
Fewer than 40 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive CPR from someone nearby, and fewer than 12 percent have an automated external defibrillator (AED) applied before emergency responders arrive, per the American Heart Association.
When a person has cardiac arrest in a public place, the chance of survival drops to about 10 percent, but the odds are better when CPR is performed and an AED is used. Nine in 10 cardiac arrest victims who receive a shock from an AED in the first minute survive, per the American Heart Association.
“During the past several decades, mortality has decreased, in part because of community-based emergency rescue programs using defibrillators and CPR,” cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar told the Washington Post. “People should definitely be trained in how to use an AED. There should be one available and ready for use in public venues. People should also learn how to administer CPR. It can be the difference between life and death.”
Charles, who played for the Phoenix Mercury and the Seattle Storm in 2022 and enters offseason as free agent, describes playing basketball as her career but promoting CPR and AED readiness as her mission.
“Scoring points is my job,” she told ESPN in 2014. “It’s what I’m supposed to do. But with an AED, you’re able to save a life. This is just something from my heart, and any accolades I receive about my work in the community mean more to me than the MVP award I won.”