Many of our paramedics are routinely asked, “If there is one single thing I could do or learn that could save a life, what is it?” The answer surprises many people: CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). They are even more surprised to learn that the average adult or school aged child can learn CPR in as little as five minutes, either in person or online.
When people think of paramedics, they often envision what they’ve seen on television. The paramedic is seen arriving within minutes, delivering some well-placed electricity, and the victim is saved. Unfortunately, this is an idyllic image of what is truly a high stress event with a very high mortality. Statistically, adults who suffer from cardiac arrest in the Smithsburg area, without immediate access to CPR, have a low chance of survival. In a retrospective review conducted by Smithsburg EMS from the years 2005-2010, the survival rate from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in our area was just over 4%. The national average is approximately 6-7% among all communities and demographics. In the United States, 88% of instances of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occur in the home and only 32% of those victims suffering from SCA will receive CPR from a bystander.
In order for EMS crews to have a fighting chance of obtaining return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) with good neurological outcomes, the patient will almost universally need to be in a certain type of cardiac arrest in which the heart is engaged in uncoordinated and uncontrolled ventricular activity. In paramedic lingo, these types of cardiac arrest are called “V-Fib/V-Tach Cardiac Arrest.” When a person’s heart stops, they will enter into three distinct phases of arrest in which their chances of survivability decreases with each passing minute. In the first several minutes post arrest the heart is typically in the “electrical phase.” This is where the heart is quivering. The longer the heart goes without oxygen, the less likely our crews will encounter this quivering or “recoverable heart.” Still, immediate CPR can supply the coronary arteries with oxygenated blood and return the heart to this recoverable phase. The application of an automated external defibrillator (AED) will shock the heart back into a normal electrical rhythm and hopefully return a pulse.
People in the Smithsburg area are at an inherent disadvantage. The area is rural. Additionally, readily available first-responder services are an integral part of the chain of survival. Communities with well-staffed first responder fire departments will receive more timely access to professional CPR and defibrillation. SEMS is staffed 365 days a year, 24 hours per day and is typically able to provide ALS to your doorstep within the eight minutes and 59 seconds recommended by the American Ambulance Association (AAA) and Commission on the Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS). The only thing that saves lives is early CPR and early defibrillation. Only YOU and your family can prepare for this possibility.
Simply put: CPR and AEDs saves lives. Early recognition of cardiac arrest, early notification to 9-1-1, early chest compressions, and early defibrillation with an AED is the only thing that will give your family member a fighting chance. Push fast and push hard in the center of the chest. If you have multiple family members in the home, engage them to switch out approximately every two minutes. Push at a rate of 100 per minute and do so until one of our paramedics relieves you of duty at the scene. This may be the longest ten minutes of your life, but we will come and we will bring help.
How to Improve Survivability in Our Community
- Challenge organizations to place AEDs in every school, at every athletic field, and in every public location possible. AEDs can now be purchased for home use. High risk individuals should discuss such a purchase with their personal physician. These devices are easy to use and are proven to save lives. No other single intervention is as effective as defibrillation.
- Learn CPR. Contact Smithsburg EMS at CPR@sems79.org and sign up for a class. Our crews would be happy to teach you the basics free of charge. Too busy to attend one of our classes? Watch the videos to the right or try the simulators below.
- Support Smithsburg EMS. We believe that cardiac arrest should be a survivable event and we have dedicated ourselves to improving outcomes in our community. SEMS has invested in the latest technologies to improve cardiac arrest survival. If you believe that Smithsburg should have one of the best cardiac arrest survival rates science can provide, then we ask you to consider providing support to the organization. Volunteer as an EMT, help with fundraisers, help us get out the word, or make a tax-deductible donation. As a community we can truly make a difference.