National CPR/AED Awareness Week

June 7th concludes National CPR/AED Awareness Week, and we at West Central District Health Department wanted to remind our communities about the importance of knowing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and understanding how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). When you think about it, these are remarkable discoveries. With a few simple steps, one human being can literally do the work of the heart and lungs for another human being, in essence, creating blood flow and a pulse to keep the brain and other vital organs supplied with life-giving oxygen until more advanced help arrives. A small electronic device, about the size of a toaster, can be used by simply looking at pictures and following voice prompts. This small device can deliver a shock of electricity that can return the heart to a normal, life-sustaining rhythm. When cardiac arrest occurs, the early initiation of CPR and the use of an AED gives the person in need a real chance at more time…more time for family, friends, celebrations, holidays, work, and purpose.

CPR, taught in healthcare, taught in the workplace, taught in schools, and taught in the broader community is a powerful and empowering way to care for each other as members of a community. When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, and the heart is unable to supply oxygen, the quick action of a family member, a co-worker or even a stranger can mean the difference between life and death. The American Red Cross identifies 5 critical steps that need to occur to give someone in cardiac arrest the best possible chance of survival. These steps, known as the “Cardiac Chain of Survival” are the vital links everyone should know. The first link in the Cardiac Chain of Survival is early recognition and early activation of EMS. The signs of cardiac arrest include sudden collapse, loss of consciousness and respiratory arrest. The sooner 911 is called in a cardiac arrest, the more likely it is that a victim will survive. The second link is early CPR. Good effective chest compression started with haste can keep the flow of blood circulating until help arrives. Whether the responder is trained as a professional rescuer, is trained in a traditional workplace or community-based program, or even trained in the “Compression-Only” method of CPR, the effort to provide chest compressions doubles the chance of survival. The third link is early defibrillation by an AED. When serious illness or injury occurs, the electrical system in the heart can “short circuit” and circulation will stop or become too ineffective to sustain life. An AED is a portable electronic device, found in many public places, that can correct the abnormal heart rhythm and allow the heart to resume beating normally. According to the Red Cross, for every minute CPR and an AED are delayed, the victim’s chance of surviving goes down 10%. The fourth link in the chain is early advanced life support. When paramedics arrive on scene, they bring with them a set of skills that essentially make them an extension of the emergency room physician. Their training and expertise can go a long way in creating a good outcome. The final link is integrated post-cardiac care. The care received once the person arrives at the hospital is vital to his or her recovery and the recovery process is now seen as so important, the Red Cross has recently added it as a sixth link.

According to the American Heart Association, in a single year, there are on average 475,00 deaths in the U.S. from cardiac arrest and when looking at out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, 70% occur in the home, with just under 19% occurring in public settings and just over 11% in nursing homes. The statistics tell an important story. When you take just a few hours to learn CPR, the person you save is most likely to be someone you know, someone you love, and someone you don’t want to be without. There is a universal need for everyone to know CPR. As we end National CPR/AED Awareness Week, please make a commitment to yourself, to your family and friends and to your community to learn to save a life.