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Attorney Mark Hammer Performs Lifesaving CPR in Court


On June 25, a student intern to the St. Louis County assistant public defender, Travis Martin, collapsed while preparing for a burglary trial in court. Martin was getting ready to interview jurors when his intern coughed, grimaced, and began gasping for breath before he collapsed. The student's heart had stopped, but thanks to the quick actions of Travis Martin and Attorney Mark Hammer, help was only a few steps away.

After the student fell to the ground, Martin and Attorney Hammer, who had been seated in the courtroom at the time of the incident, rushed to the young man’s side. Hammer immediately went outside the courtroom to ask the two St. Louis County Detectives stationed there for help. All four of them proceeded to perform CPR on the student, who was nonresponsive.

Attorney Hammer taught Red Cross CPR training when we was a student at San Diego State University. However, since that was more than 40 years ago, he was surprised to discover that the information he had learned was still so fresh in his mind. Martin also knew CPR, thanks to his mother, an emergency medical technician. The two took charge and administered the necessary chest compressions and rescue breaths until more help arrived.

After a short while, St. Louis County Police Sgt. Bill Muller entered the courtroom with a defibrillator and administered the first shock to the student's chest. When they removed his shirt, the found a long scar on his chest—a clear indication that the intern had had heart surgery in the past. When his pulse did not return, they administered a second shock with the defibrillator. Jonathan Cooper, one of the St. Louis County Detectives, took over performing CPR until EMTs from the Clayton Fire Department arrived.

The EMTs shocked a third time, provided him with oxygen, and opened an IV line through his shin. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and began breathing on his own.

The student is now doing well, but the trauma of the incident certainly had an impact on Attorney Hammer and all of those involved. After discussing the situation with a physician, Attorney Hammer learned that CPR performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest could increase a person’s chances of survival more than twice over. Also, nearly 90% of individuals who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting lose their lives, according to information provided by the American Heart Association.

Clayton Fire Department Interim Chief Paul Mercurio stated, “It is without doubt that the immediate actions that were collectively taken, along with the care provided by the professional fire department responders, effectively saved the life of this man.” The department plans to honor Mark Hammer and other rescuers in a ceremony this year.

Attorney Hammer is just glad he was in the courtroom at the time and was able to help. Martin, though instrumental in saving his intern’s life, credits Hammer for remaining calm and guiding him throughout the ordeal. “This was one of the most human, humane, meaningful events I have ever participated in,” Hammer told a reporter at the St. Louis County Circuit Court. “It was impossible not to be present, impossible not to care about someone I never even met before. I will always have this deep love for Travis . . . and gratitude for the most profound opportunity I have ever had to help protect someone’s life.”

To learn more about the incident, visit Missouri Lawyers Weekly online.

Contact The Hammer Law Firm, LLC today to schedule a free consultation with our St. Louis criminal defense attorneys.
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