Five years ago, my father-in-law experienced cardiac arrest while traveling on an airplane. Just like in the movies, one minute he was fine and the next he wasn’t. The moments that followed can only be described as total panic; there aren’t many places that you feel as helpless and isolated as you do on an airplane, cruising 30,000 feet above the nearest hospital. As the flight crew made preparations for an emergency landing two fellow travelers stepped forward and began to administer CPR, they continued CPR until the plane touched down in Reno, Nevada where they passed care to the awaiting ambulance and quickly whisked him away to the closest hospital. A week later as we sat by his bedside in the critical care unit, in a town we hadn’t planned on visiting, the physician credited his survival to those selfless people who jumped in to provide lifesaving CPR.
Cardio Pulmonary Reescalation or CPR does save lives and although our community is making great strides in educating people on its benefits, many people are still reluctant to get trained. Why is that? The American Heart Association explains that 70% of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either don’t know how to do CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. I’d like to see CPR training become a requirement for high-school graduation or possibly part of obtaining an Oregon driver’s license. Think about the impact those requirements would have.
I’ve been volunteering my time with our local fire department and am amazed at the efforts being put fourth to help get people trained with this life saving skill. We partnered with a local high school to train their students in “Hands-Only CPR” and in turn, they’re asked to train a few of their friends and family members. This has led to thousands of people, our neighbors and coworkers, becoming trained in how to perform CPR. Hands-Only CPR can be taught to anyone over the age of 12, it’s simple and effective and makes a real difference in the outcomes of patients experiencing a cardiac emergency. The idea is your push hard and fast on the center of the chest to keep blood pumping to the critical areas of the body, it’s also important to note that mouth-to-mouth is no longer a requirement so it’s even easier now to enable citizen responders to help save the life of their loved one.
From my time volunteering with the fire department, I can see that they’re always looking for ways to engage with the community as well as provide education and skills that actually make a difference in the emergencies they respond to. Our communities’ fire department is the first in the state of Oregon to introduce a life-saving smartphone app called PulsePoint. This free app covers our entire 220 square mile service area and enables users trained in CPR to be alerted to a cardiac arrest event at the same time as firefighters and paramedics. After someone calls 9-1-1, the app uses location-based services to alert citizens of the need for CPR in a public place (not private homes). The app will also direct citizens to the location of the nearest automated external defibrillator. Between teaching CPR to our community members and promoting the use of this app we’re actively trying to enable citizens to immediately start CPR and be the first link in the chain of survival.
Over 80% of 9-1-1 incidents are medical emergencies and generally speaking, a cardiac arrest is almost always fatal if there is no intervention within 4-6 minutes…often this is the time is takes for emergency services to arrive. Although the odds of surviving a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital are still relatively low, when a bystander performs hands-only CPR, the odds of survival can double or even triple. According the American Heart Association, every year, more than 300,000 people in the United States die from sudden cardiac arrest and when people are trained and able to perform early CPR and use an AED the chances of survival are greatly increased.
CPR classes are widely available, many can be started as online and completed with a short in-person skills practice and testing. Classes are often only a few hours long and very low cost. If actual certification isn’t a requirement, you can find tutorials on the specifics of hands-only CPR online. You are a critical piece to the chain of survival and by recognizing the signs of cardiac arrest, calling 9-1-1 quickly and beginning CPR you can improve the chances of survival for your loved ones. The power is in your hands.
Get Informed: Annotated Bibliography
“CPR by Chest Compression Alone.” Clinical Cardiology Alert 1 July 2000. Academic OneFile. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
This article, although 15 years old, is a great example of why the American Heart Association changed its recommendations on how to perform CPR as of recently. It’s a snapshot of where much of this research began and explains how much of the data was collected. This paper compares a study of chest compressions with and without mouth-to-mouth ventilation and shows how bystander CPR alone can improve cardiac arrest survival.
“Learning Hands-Only CPR Could Help Save A Loved One’S Life.” Harvard Heart Letter 24.11 (2014): 3. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
This is a great source from Harvard Hearth Letter, Aaron Baggish is an assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School and clearly explains why CPR is so critical to survival, along with how easy it can be to learn. This informational piece does a great job of explaining why the hands-only method is superior and why we should all get training. It’s designed as an easy to read handout to educate the public about CPR and is full of great information.
How to Get Involved
- So now that you’re ready to get involved, here are some great resources that will help.
- Take a minute to watch this demonstration on how to perform hands-only CPR.
- See how easy that is, now go get some training by finding a CPR course in your area.
- Find out if the PulsePoint smartphone app is available in your local area and receive alerts for medical emergencies you can help with. Visit their website for all the details. http://www.pulsepoint.org/
- Now take your new found knowledge and share it with your friends and family, heck, shout it from the rooftops! Feel confident that you have a skill that can make a real difference in the outcome of a cardiac emergency.
- For more general information on heart disease and what you can do to decrease the risk factors, visit the American Heart Association at http://www.heart.org