WVAC 911: Why you should learn CPR on May 3

When you think about administering CPR and using an AED (automated external defibrillator), you may envision yourself kneeling next to an elderly gentleman in the aisle of a store or the sidewalk pavement. While a scenario such as this is certainly a possibility, the reality is the circumstances as well as the victim will likely be what you least expect.

On the playground


Some adults and children have severe environmental and food allergies. To your son, the sting of a bee or a bite of a peanut butter sandwich may cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. His airway swells and he has difficulty breathing.  
Administering epinephrine with an Epi-pen can counteract the suffocating condition.   But what if you don’t have one or the one you have doesn’t work? Asthma can cause a similar medical emergency, but for different reasons. Chronic airway inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes produces coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. An inhaler containing anti-inflammatory drugs may ease his distress. But what if it doesn’t? Potentially, your son will stop breathing and this respiratory arrest will quickly lead to cardiac arrest.

At the pool, the beach or in the bathtub


Your daughter is swimming in the neighbor’s pool and begins to take water into her lungs. As well as the direct effect of oxygen deprivation, there are also dangerous effects on her blood chemistry. The freshwater taken into her lungs is pulled into the pulmonary circulation by osmosis. This dilutes the blood and leads to the bursting of her red blood cells, resulting in the elevation of potassium level and a decrease in sodium levels. Such electrolyte imbalance disrupts the electrical activity of her heart, causing her heart to go into a lethal arrhythmia. For your daughter to have a chance at resuscitation, it is critical there are bystanders who are CPR-trained and have immediate access to an AED.

At the kitchen table


Your father begins to choke at the dinner table. He cannot cough or speak and he makes the universal choking sign. You immediately provide abdominal thrusts, but they aren’t effective at clearing his airway. Your father quickly loses consciousness and cardiac arrest soon follows. You gently lay him flat on his back on the floor and begin CPR. The combination of chest compressions and the natural relaxation of his airway due to loss of consciousness can help dislodge the food. At the same time you are profusing his brain with oxygenated blood.

On the athletic field


Your nephew is playing baseball when he is suddenly struck in the chest by a line drive. The impact disrupts the normal electrical activity that makes his heart beat and he drops to the ground in cardiac arrest. Known as “Commotio Cordis,” this is a lethal disruption of heart rhythm that occurs as a result of a blow to the area directly over the heart at a critical time during the cycle of a heart beat. It has a fatality rate of about 65%.

Home is where the heart is


Did you know that over 85% of cardiac arrests occur at home? Should you find yourself performing CPR, it will most likely be on a loved one. Perhaps they collapse in the living room, gasping, looking like they are having a seizure. You call 911 and stay by their side but eight minutes elapse before first responders arrive and begin chest compressions. Your loved one’s brain has been without oxygen all that time and the chaotic electrical activity that was present during the first four minutes of their collapse has been lost. The muscle of their heart is irreversibly injured and their brain is beginning to die. All attempts at resuscitation by emergency personnel and ER physicians are unsuccessful. How different the outcome may have been had CPR been started immediately.

You can register to be a citizen responder


After you are trained in CPR you can register with PulsePoint Respond. The PulsePoint application empowers everyday citizens to provide life-saving assistance to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. App users who indicate they are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and willing to assist in case of an emergency are notified if someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency and may require CPR. If the cardiac emergency is in a public place, trained citizens in the vicinity will be alerted of the need for bystander CPR simultaneously with the dispatch of advanced medical care. The app also directs these citizen rescuers to the exact location of the closest publicly accessible AED.

Hands For Life 2015


So how do you get started in learning CPR and how to use an AED? Come to Hands For Life Westport Weston Wilton 2015 a free, tri-town community-wide Hands-Only CPR™ and AED training event on Sunday, May 3, at the Westport YMCA. People of all ages are welcome to come any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and learn Hands-Only CPR™ and how to use an AED in just 15 minutes. No registration is required and training is offered in a fun, family environment.
More information: HandsForLife.Org or contact Hands for Life Westport Weston Wilton Committee Chairperson Nancy Capelle at 203-216-1509 or nancy@cardiaccompanion.com.
Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps is a nonprofit organization. Information: wiltonambulance.org.