The Citizen Responder: What Happens In Sudden Cardiac Arrest And Why It Is Important For Citizens To Learn CPR.
Article By: John C. Haynes, Jr.
We see ads everyday urging the public to take courses in CPR and AED. We see ads urging the use of Hands-Only CPR. To most, they may think about it for a minute and then when faced with the time crunch of our lives, put it in the back of our mind on a list of future “To Do’s.” So, why is it so critically important for everyday people to learn CPR? Will it really make a difference? To answer that question, let’s take a look at what happens in Sudden Cardiac Arrest or SCA.
Time Is Tissue
SCA is characterized by and can be identified by 2 things: An individual suddenly collapsing (going unconscious) and the absence of normal breathing. Typically, when a person has been going about their normal routine (they may be walking and talking with no adverse signs or symptoms) and then they suddenly collapse and either stop breathing or have agonal respirations (barely breathing), their heart has gone into a condition known as Ventricular Fibrillation or V-Fib for short. While in V-Fib, the heart ceases to pump blood properly. Since blood is not being pumped properly to other parts of the body, the brain stops receiving blood and therefore, the brain is not receiving oxygen. When the brain stops receiving oxygen, brain death begins to occur within 4 to 6 minutes as brain cells begin to die. Within 10 minutes of the onset of SCA, there is little chance this individual will survive. In most EMS (Emergency Medical Services) systems around the country, it can take 6 to 10 minutes for responders to arrive on scene. Many EMS responders do arrive sooner than that, however, keep in mind that first responders may already be on other calls, thus increasing the response time to the next emergency. So, it is clear how critical it is to have bystanders who are trained in performing high-quality CPR and using an AED. More on the AED later!
People Helping People
How do Citizen Responders help? Take a course in CPR and AED! There are 3 main certifying agencies: American Heart Association (AHA), American Red Cross (ARC), and American Safety and Health Institutes (ASHI). All 3 organizations have CPR/AED programs based on AHA principles for Cardiac Arrest. Take a look around your community. You are guaranteed to find many organizations offering classes. Likely, your local fire department or emergency management group offers classes. Be sure to take the course that teaches CPR and AED for Adult, Child, and Infant. Taking this course will offer a person the ability to learn and practice high-quality CPR. The course will also teach individuals how to use an AED. The AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) is designed to look for V-Fib, as well as other bad heart rhythms, and if it finds V-Fib, to shock the heart in an attempt to bring the heart back into a normal rhythm. CPR is designed to temporarily restore some oxygen to the brain – remember, the brain is not getting oxygen! The AED is designed to bring the heart back into it’s normal rhythm so that it can pump blood normally.
The Citizen Responder
So, there you have it! The reason why it is important for regular citizens who are not a member of public safety to learn CPR/AED. You may be in the middle of a store when a person goes into SCA. You may be the only person there to recognize and treat this condition. You may be the only person to realize this person needs an ambulance and calls 911. You may be the only person who knows how to perform CPR. You may be the only person who knows how to use an AED, when it is available. You may be the only person performing CPR and using the AED until Firefighters and EMS arrive on scene. You may save that individuals life. You are the Citizen Responder!
This article was written by John C. Haynes, Jr., 911 Dispatcher and Firefighter for Santa Rosa County, Florida. He is also the owner of 1st Response Tactical and DisasterPrep911.