Tucson basketball fans will get medical training along with their Wildcats at the next men's home game.

A new effort called "Be a Lifesaver Tucson" has the ambitious goal of training 500,000 Pima County residents in chest-compression-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation in one month.

That goal amounts to training half of the county's residents in a method of resuscitating someone after cardiac arrest that was developed by doctors at the University of Arizona's Sarver Heart Center.

The new training campaign is a cooperative effort between the Steven M. Gootter Foundation, the Kaimas Foundation and the Sarver Heart Center.

Campaign organizers said there's good reason behind what may at first seem like an unrealistic goal: There are about 15 sudden cardiac arrests every day in Arizona.

"If you are a 40-year-old male in America, you have a 1-in-8 chance of departing by sudden cardiac arrest," Sarver Heart Center Director Dr. Gordon A. Ewy said. "It's a major, major public health problem."

The "Be a Lifesaver Tucson" campaign will kick off by showing a two-minute training video featuring retired professional basketball player and former UA Wildcat Steve Kerr at Tuesday's state of the city lunch.

Then it's on to the 14,000 people expected to attend a Feb. 23 UA men's basketball home game against USC at McKale Center, where campaign organizers plan to show a public-service announcement about chest-compression-only CPR and hand out instruction cards, too.

"If someone had known what to do, my brother might be here today," said Steven M. Gootter's sister, Claudine Messing.

Steven Gootter died of sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 42 while jogging with the family dog.

"That's why we want to teach at least half of Tucson how to save a life. Even if we teach half that number, we'd make all kinds of records," Messing said. "A thousand people per day die of sudden cardiac arrest in the United States. That's one person every 90 seconds. ... It's the leading cause of natural death in the U.S."

And the odds for someone like Gootter who suffered cardiac arrest away from the hospital are alarmingly grim - the survival rate is less than 8 percent.

But Messing said the chest-compression-only CPR combined with an automated external defibrillator can work, and that those odds could be significantly improved.

An example is Tucson attorney Robert Charles, whose wife, Ann Charles, is also part of the "Be a Lifesaver Tucson" effort. Robert Charles collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest while playing tennis at the Tucson Racquet & Fitness Club in 2010 when he was 52.

A doctor was at the scene and revived Charles using chest-compression-only CPR. He had four occluded arteries and needed a quadruple bypass. He'd shown no prior symptoms.

"Rob's teammates knew chest-compression CPR, and there was an AED (defibrillator) in place. His life was saved by people who knew what to do," Messing said.

A 30-second "Be a Lifesaver Tucson" public service announcement about the effort will be shown at the basketball game. It will also begin airing on local stations in mid-February. The PSA will send viewers to the two-minute chest-compression-only CPR training video.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and City Councilman Steve Kozachik have filmed a public-service announcement, as well as UA Athletic Director Greg Byrne and his wife, Regina Byrne.

Did you know?

A study published in 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is no longer necessary when someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest.

Five years of Arizona data showed chest-compression-only CPR was more effective than mouth-to-mouth when treating people who suffered sudden cardiac arrest outside a hospital.

For more info

More information about chest-compression-only CPR: BeALifesaverTucson.com

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134.