Empower yourself: learn CPR/AED

Published: February 3 2014 | 10:23 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:04 am in
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More than 92 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital die.

If more people had CPR and AED training, that statistic could change.

According to the American Heart Association, effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. The victim’s chances of survival increases when defibrillation from an AED (automated external defibrillator) occurs within the first three minutes after sudden cardiac arrest; for every minute that passes from collapse to defibrillation, survival decreases seven to ten percent.

“The majority of arrests do not occur in hospital in front of us, they occur at home with loved ones, or in the mall or in some other place out in the community,” says Carol Fridal, a registered nurse in the emergency department at Unity Point Health-St. Luke’s who’s also trained as an American Heart Association Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) instructor. “Those first minutes provide the greatest chance of having the patient survive. The response time in Cedar Rapids is great, but every minute counts when it comes to your heart. Recognizing the situation, calling for help (911), starting CPR and getting an AED are the key things to increase survival.”

CPR has been around for more than 50 years. If you have not been trained in CPR or are worried about giving mouth-to-mouth to a stranger, you can do chest compressions only, known as Hands-Only CPR: Call 911, and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive.” Full CPR training is available locally through the American Heart Association, hospitals, and agencies like the Red Cross and First Voice.

CPR keeps blood and oxygen circulating in the body until advanced medical help arrives. An AED can restart the heart, providing a better chance of survival. Today, AEDs are increasingly available communitywide — they’re in the public library and the mall, in schools, sports venues and churches, at the fairgrounds and in every police car in Linn County. Many CPR courses incorporate AED training.

“The frequency of seeing AEDs in the public has doubled, tripled, quadrupled in the last ten years,” Fridal says. A machine that delivers an electric shock to the heart may sound intimidating to the lay person, but Fridal says they are easy to use: “Once you open it up and turn it on, it tells you what to do every step of the way. Really, anybody can use one. But, ideally, we’d love to have everybody go through training — it gives you an opportunity to handle one and find out that it’s not so intimidating, and to feel more prepared in the event of an emergency.”

Fridal urges people to remember that cardiac arrest knows no age. It can strike anyone, at any time. Each year more than 300,000 adults and 7,000 children will be affected by sudden cardiac arrest. The best way to be prepared for an unexpected emergency — and help your loved ones — is to get trained on proper response techniques.

“The typical class is only about three hours,” she says. “And people are so empowered and excited that the time goes very quickly. I pray that nobody ever has to use CPR, but if they’re trained and they’re prepared, they can make a difference and save a life. What they do is just as important as what we do in the hospital.”

Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents blood from reaching a section of the heart. Symptoms may be immediate and intense, or they may start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before the attack occurs. The heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. Still, don’t wait more than five minutes to call 911. It’s best to get to the emergency room right away.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. If someone is not breathing normally and is not moving or unconscious, call 911 immediately and begin CPR. If an AED is available, use it as soon as possible.

Most heart attacks do not lead to sudden cardiac arrest, but heart attacks are a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.

Source: American Heart Association

This story originally appeared in The Gazette’s American Heart Month special section, published on Feb. 2, 2014.

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