The Heart Rhythm Society has dedicated October as sudden cardiac arrest awareness month to highlight the importance of knowing what to do if someone experiences an emergency.
Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with 350,000 people dying every year from it. That’s one person every one to two minutes.
Andrew King, a Buchanan County EMT, said a common issue with sudden cardiac arrest is people confusing it with a heart attack.
“A heart attack is when blood flow stops to either part or whole part of the heart,” King said. “Cardiac arrest is when the heart’s not beating or not beating at a rhythm that can sustain life.”
In the case of sudden cardiac arrest, a person should perform hands-only CPR and hook the victim up to an AED if one is available.
“Studies show that the sooner we start CPR, the better the outcomes are for the patient,” King said.
Another important first step is to make sure the surroundings are a safe environment to perform the safety measures.
“If you’re in a house fire or someone collapses in the middle of the street, you don’t want to run up and perform CPR there,” King said.
The next step should be calling 911, even if CPR is being performed.
King said while doing CPR, the patient should be on a hard surface. The person performing it should be up tall on their knees to use body weight, pushing with their palm in the middle of the chest hard and fast, 2 inches into the chest at 100 times a minute.
“Even if the patient doesn’t wake up right away, it’s still giving them the best fighting chance,” King said. “Ultimately we are trying to make sure there’s blood and oxygen flow into that brain.”
King said more businesses and public places are encouraged to have AEDs present as another source to help with cardiac arrest.
When the AED is put on a patient, it determines on its own whether or not they need to be shocked.
“They’re very simple to use, and they’ll never ever hurt a patient,” King said.
King hopes AEDs soon will be as readily available as a fire extinguisher.
Buchanan County EMS is constantly going to schools, churches and businesses to teach CPR and AED use. Anyone interested in the training can contact them at 816-396-9580.