John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
Less than 8% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive, while about 50% of people who suffer cardiac arrest in the hospital survive.  Why, you may ask, is there such a huge difference in survival rates for cardiac arrest victims?  Is this due to the superior training and skill of emergency responders in the hospital?  Is this the result of the presence of automated defibrillators at the hospital?  Or could it be that cardiac arrest victims are sometimes alone when they go into cardiac arrest?

Of course, those are factors, but the number one reason (drum roll, please) is that less than one-third of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest victims receive bystander CPR.  Bystander CPR, provided immediately after a sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim's chance of survival. Sadly, however, bystanders often do not attempt CPR for their fear that #1: they might hurt the person (whose heart is not beating and will suffer death without quick initiation of CPR) or #2: they don't know how to administer CPR and feel awkward giving CPR to a stranger. 

Fortunately, you don't have to  be trained in CPR to save a life.  Chest compressions alone can save lives, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement.  Hands-only CPR involves chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the middle of the cardiac arrest victim's chest without stopping until emergency responders arrive.  Push hard and fast on the victim's chest at a rate of 100 compressions per minute and push down at least two inches with each compression. 

Better yet, take a course on CPR offered by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Children as  young as 9 can learn and retain CPR skills.  More information on CPR training can be found at www.americanheart.org/handsonlycpr.

So you don't think you will ever be called upon to give CPR?  Not so fast, my friend.  About 310,000 coronary heart disease deaths occur out-of-hospital or in emergency departments ech year in the United States and of those deaths, about 166,200 are due to sudden cardiac arrest, or about 450 per day.  Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time and many victims are healthy with no known heart disease.  It gets worse--about 5,800 children 18 years old and under suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year.  Not only is it possible that you will witness a person collapse from cardiac arrest in your lifetime, it is more than likely.

Take a CPR course at the American Red Cross.  This hour of your time may be just the thing that saves a cardiac arrest victim's life.


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