Inspiring the young to save lives

December 2, 2009 by  

teenagersCardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using an automated external defibrillators (AED) are life-saving skills that everybody should learn. Including children. In a previous post, I described a study by Austrian researchers which indicated that school children as young as 9 years can be trained to perform these emergency procedures effectively.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has just launched a new online tool cardiac arrest awareness that teaches 12- to 15-year-olds the above-mentioned skills. However, this is no ordinary teaching tool. In order to inspire the youth to participate, the campaign uses fun and creative ways to learn the basics of CPR and AED use. The new online cardiac arrest awareness campaign is called Be the Beat and it includes video games, quizzes and songs that are appealing to this age group.

But why teach young people CPR and AED use? Because bystander helps increases the chances of a patient’s survival by two or three times during cardiac arrest. And young people are always around with others of their age at school, in sports, in leisure time. In this age group, they do not require 100% adult supervision anymore. In cases of emergency, they should be able to help each other.

Here’s what Beat the Beat has to offer:

In addition, the site also offers resources for educators and schools including downloadable lesson plans and templates for creating and sustaining an in-school emergency response plan.

According to Dr. Michael Sayre, chair of AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee.

“Be the Beat is helping to create the next generation of lifesavers by empowering teens and tweens to act when they see someone suddenly collapse. Sadly, far too many people are dying from cardiac arrest – we want this campaign to inspire people to help save lives.”

This campaign is supported by Medtronic Foundation. Schools can apply for a $1000 Be the Beat Mini Grant from the foundation.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Lacrosse and commotio cordis

November 3, 2009 by  

Doing sports is a healthy pastime. For children and adolescents, sports can be the cure for obesity andLacrosse social problems.

Lacrosse is become a very popular sports In American schools. There are some concerns, whoever that the sports can be dangerous. A friend of mine didn’t allow her 14-year old son to play lacrosse because of these concerns.

In 2004, George Boiardi of Cornell University got hit with a lacrosse ball in the chest, causing his heart to stop. His was not an isolated case.

A recent report analysed the statistics of this popular game, as summarized below:

  • Since 1980, 23 lacrosse players in the US suffered from sports-related accident that led to cardiac arrest.
  • 19 of those players died; only 4 survived.

It is easily imaginable for athletes who play American football or rugby to sustain fatal injuries during a game. But lacrosse? How could a lacrosse ball kill a person? It is probably due to commotio cordis, “a condition in which an impact of blunt force arriving within a specific range of 15 thousandths of a second in the heart’s beating cycle sends an electrical impulse to the heart, stopping it.” Commotio cordis is a Latin terms which means “commotion of the heart”. A lacrosse ball hitting the chest at a precise moment can cause ventricular fibrillation,

a condition in which the heart’s electrical activity becomes disordered. The heart’s lower (pumping) chambers contract in a rapid, unsynchronized way and little or no blood is pumped from the heart. Collapse and sudden death follows unless medical help is provided immediately.

However, experts say it is a very rare event, a one-in-a-million shot. We shouldn’t let such rare occurrence discourage us and our kids from doing sports.

And because doctors, PE teachers and coaches are more aware of the risks, more preventive measures are in place, such:

  • Protective chest gears
  • Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)

The presence of AEDs during sports events has saved many lives. According to the report, two lacrosse players suffered from commotion cordis in 2008 and survived.

According to Dr. Jeff Mandak, a cardiologist in Harrisburg, Pa., and a member of U.S. Lacrosse’s safety board

“When there were two episodes of commotio cordis on the field a year, a year and a half ago … because these coaches recognized that this was a potential devastating injury … they called for a defibrillator and both kids survived”.

Photo credit: wikicommons

Ready to perform effective bystander CPR?

June 3, 2009 by  

defibrillatorIt’s CPR and AED Awareness Week (June 1 to 7) in the United States.

Why is CPR important?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) saves lives. Here are the reasons why we need to know CPR (source: American Heart Association):

  • About 80% of cases of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) happen at home.
  • Less than a third of SCA victims receive CPR from a bystander. Only 6.4% of the victims survive because there is nobody in their vicinity who can perform life-saving CPR.
  • 12 to 20% of Americans feel confident in performing CPR should the need arises.
  • 37 to 39% (about 4 in 10) are most likely to perform a CPR on somebody they know personally.

Are you ready to save those of your loved ones? Are you one of those bystanders who feel confident enough to save the life of others?

What can you do?

Here is what you can do/ how you can help:

  • Get CPR training. The American Heart Association recommends everybody to get trained in CPR. Furthermore, training shouldn’t just be a one time thing. It should be constantly practiced and updated. Furthermore, you can even do training online!
  • Keep a record of your training. When was your last training? Are you ready to act in case of emergency? Be a part of the 1 million CPR-trained people in the US!
  • Share your time. As a CPR instructor or other types of volunteer work.
  • Donate. Your donation goes into training programs that save lives all over the country! The goal is to train one million Americans. So far, 150,000 have been trained. A little help will go a long, long way.
  • Spread the word. Help spread CPR Awareness through emails, word of mouth, your blogs (that’s what I’m doing now!), your social networks (it’s in Facebook, Twitter, Linked in!).
  • Check out Mini Anne, an inflatable, portable mannequin that you can practice on. It only takes 22 minutes!

What about AED?

Another way of resuscitating cardiac arrest victims is by using an Automated External Defibrillator or AED. AEDs are now available in many public places which have been identified as high risk locations. The new devices have been designed to be simple and easy to use, even by those who do not have any medical training. Once activated, the person manning the AED gets visual and audio instructions how to operate the machine as well as perform a CPR.

Remember, for cardiac arrest patients, every second counts. Together, CPR and AED can save precious seconds and save lives.

The HEARTS Act Passes Congress

July 3, 2008 by  

On June 10, 2008, the Josh Miller HEARTS Act passed the Congress, thus paving the way for saving more lives.

According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, the HEARTs Act

will establish a grant program through the U.S. Department of Education to provide schools with funds for automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and AED/CPR training.”

The law was introduced by Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton earlier this year. It had gained the support of almost 100 House cosponsors.

The Act is named in memory of Josh Miller, a student from Sutton’s hometown. The 15-year-old Josh suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during the final game of the 2000 Barberton High School football season. There was a delay of defibrillation due to unavailability of an AED, resulting in Josh’s death. It is hoped that the Josh Miller HEARTS Act will help prevent similar tragedies.

Cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death not only in the United States but also worldwide. According to advocates of the Act, there is a lack of support and funding for sudden cardiac arrest prevention and awareness by the government. Some states are lagging behind than others in terms of requiring AEDs and CPR training in school. Through this Act, it is hoped that the federal government with step up access to AEDs and other life-saving interventions in schools all over the country.

In an earlier post, I reported about the survey by the American Heart Association on the American people’s readiness to act and help in an emergency situation and the results are sobering. It is hoped that the Act will change this.

The Josh Miller Helping Everyone Access Responsive Treatment in Schools Act of 2008, or the Josh Miller HEARTS Act:


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It’s National CPR/AED Awareness Week

June 4, 2008 by  

Do you know how to perform a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an an automated external defibrillator (AED)? Do you know how to act in an emergency to help save a life? As part of the National CPR/AED Awareness Week, the American Heart Association (AHA) conducted a survey about the ability of Americans to act appropriately in a cardiac emergency. And the results are a bit disappointing.

The AHA survey was done online and 1,132 responded to the survey, 162 of whom were African Americans and 150 were Hispanics. 89% or the respondents were willing to help in an emergency situation. The rest are not willing or hesitant to help out because of lack of confidence in their life-saving skills, concerns about possible litigation, or fear of doing more harm than good.

Only 21% of those asked were confident they can do a CPR when necessary and only 15% felt confident they can operate an AED.

According to the AHA Fact Sheet:

Clearly there is a need for the general public who are untrained in medical interventions, to learn the basics of giving help during a cardiac emergency.

I have gone through a couple of CPR training programs. Once was at university as part of my training for International Red Cross youth volunteers. Another time was during a one-day emergency training in Germany which was a requirement for getting a German driver’s license. So far, I am lucky that I haven’t been confronted with a situation wherein I have to prove my life-saving skills. But you will never know when those skills will come in handy.

AHA trains more than 10 million people in CPR annually. Those who undergo training are not only health professionals but ordinary people like you and me. AHA tries to make the training simple and easy to remember. As an example:

“The most effective rate for chest compressions is 100 compressions per minute – the same rhythm as the beat of the BeeGee’s song, “Stayin’ Alive.”

In a previous post, we tackled the topic of AEDs. According to AHA

New technology has made AEDs simple and user-friendly. Clear audio and visual cues tell users what to do when using an AED and coach people through CPR. A shock is delivered only if the victim needs it.”

Interested in learning more about CPR and AEDs? Visit the American Heart Association site, or the AHA hands-only CPR site. Your doctor or your local health group can also point you to the right direction.

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The latest news on portable defibrillators

May 23, 2008 by  

Two news items caught my attention this week regarding defibrillators.

News item # 1:

The United States Food and Drug Administration issued an injunction in April against the heart defibrillator manufacturer Physio-Control, Inc., which is a daughter company of Medtronic, Inc. The permanent injunction was in relation to Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) which are

“…portable devices used to restore normal heart rhythm to patients in cardiac arrest (heart attack). Heart attacks can cause ventricular fibrillation, where the heart’s electrical signals are uncoordinated and ineffective, resulting in a lack of blood pumped from the heart to the rest of the body. AEDs are applied outside of the body and deliver an electric shock that stuns the heart for a moment, giving it the chance to resume beating effectively.”

News item # 2:

In the city of Zurich close to where I live, they started a pilot project in May wherein AEDs were placed in 13 telephone booths all over the city. This project is probably a part of the preparations for the upcoming European Football Championships in June 2008. The location of the booths was chosen based on their proximity to public viewing areas as well as squares where crowds tend to gather. The project will last for a year after which it will be evaluated to determine whether AEDs should become a fixture in the phone booths of Switzerland`s biggest city a well as other urban areas.

You have seen defibrillators in movies and TV shows – that device that is applied to a person`s chest during a heart attack. We can only hope and pray that our encounter with this device is limited to this as-seen-on-screen experience and not in real life.

There are many types of defibrillators. What you see in emergency rooms are the state-of-the-art ones which require expert knowledge to operate. However, defibrillators are actually found in many places outside the hospital – in emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks, for example.

What we are not aware of is that they may be present in churches, school houses, conference halls, and during sports competitions. And, in the case of Zurich, in telephone booths. In other words, they can be found in places where large number of people tends to gather. There is where AEDs come in. They are portable and they can be operated by almost anybody.

So why are ordinary people without medical training given access to defibrillators? Because in emergency situations, AEDs can save lives. The CDC estimates that 47% of cardiac deaths occur before delivery of emergency services or arrival at the hospital. In other words, an AED might be the only thing that stands between life and death.

Now back to the injunction. According to the FDA, the AEDs concerned have manufacturing deficiencies

“including failure to establish and maintain adequate procedures for validating the device design and failure to establish and maintain adequate procedures for implementing corrective and preventive actions.”

For these reasons, the FDA issued the injunction and demanded for removals and corrections.

And rightly so. In order for AEDs to save lives, it has to be safe, effective, and reliable.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.