Monday, September 18, 2006

Self-Taught CPR - About Time

I'm glad the American Heart Association has decided to permit more and more people to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in their own homes. The statistics of improving survival with CPR are staggering. CPR can keep people mentally intact after cardiac arrest by circulating blood to the brain. No CPR or ineffective CPR does little to preserve the mental state of the individual after cardiac arrest. I can't tell you how many people I've seen resuscitated by total strangers in my career. And every one of them has an incredible story to tell: one of amazing bravery, fortitude, and just plain luck.

Like the guy who was playing platform tennis with his friends, and collapsed suddenly. CPR was started immediately. Why? Because he was playing an orthopedic surgeon. It took ambulances 10 minutes to find the court. No automatic external defibrillator (AED) was nearby. The ambulance crew arrived, placed an AED on his chest and it recognized ventricular fibrillation and fired. A normal rhythm was restored. The patient made it to the ER, then to the intensive care unit. He awoke the next morning, awake, alert, and wondering who won the match! Incredible. He was found to have a tight narrowing of a coronary blood vessel, had the vessel angioplastied, stented, and returned home 4 days later. That was one year ago - I saw him playing platform tennis again this year.

Or the jogger who collapsed while running. An ambulance was driving the opposite direction on a divided highway and saw him fall. They did a U-turn, did CPR, then shocked him back to life. Another save.

Or the guy grilling burgers on his apartment balcony. The neighbor upstairs noticed him one floor down as he collapsed against the table on the balcony. He rushed to his apartment, noted the door was locked, kicked it in, and started CPR while asking other neighbors to call 911. They did. Eight minutes later the ambulance crew arrived, defibrillated the patient, he was brought to the Emergency Room, and survived to grill another day.

And even the gentleman celebrating his 45th wedding anniversary dancing on a ballroom floor, only to collapse amongst a team of hospital nurses. They performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. He's celebrating his 48th anniversary this year.

And there are many, many more stories. All with happy endings. You see the brain can only survive for about 4 minutes without oxygen. Blood is the transporter of oxygen to the brain. Rarely can ambulances arrive within the short 4-minute period of time, so CPR is essential. Just saving the heart is not the point. You need to save the brain, too.

Now the real question is: will people spend the $30 for the manikin? I'm not sure. But for the cost of 6 frappachino's at Starbucks these days, it's worth it. It's only drawback? The DVD video should also be supplied free as a streaming video on the Internet - it's where things are going, you know.