Could You Save a Life? Local High School Student Campaigns for Hands-Only CPR

On August 28 Elizabeth Cohen cooked her 16-year-old son Billy his favorite dessert: Nestle Tollhouse cookie bars. It wasn’t Billy’s birthday; it was the one-year anniversary of the day he almost died, and would have if not for the quick actions of staff at Providence Day School.

Now Elizabeth and Billy are sharing the story with the world, because they want everyone to be able to save someone’s life the way Billy’s was saved — with hands-only CPR.

Billy Cohen and his family - spreading the word on hands only cpr
Billy Cohen and his family

Billy was born with a congenital heart defect that caused his aortic valve not to develop properly. At age 15 he had an aortic root graft and was cleared to play sports again. On August 28, 2015, he was running around the track at PDS when he suddenly collapsed.

Coaches and trainers immediately dialed 911, grabbed an automated external defibrillator (AED) and immediately began CPR. Billy woke up in the hospital with no recollection of the incident.

“His cardiologist said there was no doubt these people saved his life,” Elizabeth said.

Friends visit Billy in the hospital after his collapse - spreading the word on hands only cpr
Friends visit Billy in the hospital after his collapse.


In January, the American Heart Association reached out to the Cohens to hear Billy’s story. When Billy was strong enough, he filmed a video challenging others to learn hands-only CPR.


The campaign is called #couldyousaveme, and it encourages others to learn hands-only CPR from this catchy video by the AHA:


Once people watch the clip, the AHA challenges them to make their own video challenging five friends to learn hands-only CPR, and share the video using the hashtag #couldyousaveme.

After two surgeries, lots of catching up on schoolwork and a prohibition on all contact sports, Billy is finding a new path in life. He’s the manager of the PDS soccer team and spent a week this summer as a junior counselor at Camp Luck, a medically supervised sleep-away camp for kids with heart diseases.


Billy, embracing golf these days alongside his dad and brother. spreading the word on hands only cpr
Billy, embracing golf these days alongside his dad and brother.


Elizabeth is thankful to celebrate both her son’s “birthdays,” and challenges anyone reading this to ask themselves the question: if you saw me go into cardiac arrest, #couldyousaveme?



If you see a teenager or adult suddenly collapse, follow these two steps:

  1. Dial 911
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest at 100 beats per minute (or to the tune of “Staying Alive”)


Learn how to film your own #couldyousaveme video here.