Starting chest compressions before first responders arrive increases the chance that a person will survive a cardiac arrest by three times. But in Douglas County, bystanders start hands-only CPR just about half as often as the national average.
Those stats, from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical, paint a somewhat grim picture for those who go into cardiac arrest here.
“We can be better!” says Tom Fagan, interim chief of LDCFM.
Bystander intervention can save lives and greatly improve the quality of life after a heart attack. Without bloodflow to the brain, permanent damage is probable within six to 10 minutes; brain death is likely within 10 minutes, according to information Fagan recently shared with the Lawrence City Commission.
In 2021, Douglas County had a 21.9% bystander intervention rate for cardiac arrests; the national average was 40.2%, according to LDCFM.
June 1-7 is National CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Awareness Week, and LDCFM is challenging the community to help make a difference in surviving a sudden cardiac arrest in Douglas County.
First, LDCFM suggests learning how to do hands-only CPR.
“You don’t need a special certification or formal training to perform CPR, but you do need basic education,” according to a news release from the department.
The very important first step is to call 911 right away. Then, “Push hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 beats per minute.” Continue until help arrives.
Here’s a short video from the American Heart Association. There are more resources available at this link. LDCFM also has some CPR resources on its website at this link.
LDCFM also encourages people to learn where they can locate AEDs, or Automated External Defibrillators. The department encourages families to make it part of their errands and outings to look for AEDs at public pools, libraries, community centers and grocery stores.
In addition, LDCFM has rolled out the free PulsePoint app, available from the App Store and Google Play. The app can alert you of sudden cardiac arrest events near you in public locations where CPR is needed. It also provides directions on how to perform hands-only CPR, and it includes locations of AED devices.
Learn more about the app in this article from November or on the PulsePoint website here.
“The department is developing large-scale community training opportunities for hands only CPR training later this year,” according to LDCFM’s news release. “Together, we can save more lives by being more engaging and performing hands only CPR.”
And in case you need a familiar song to help you remember how fast compressions should go, here’s a short playlist with quite a variety of songs, all with tempos right around 100 beats per minute. (We do not own these videos.)
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.