Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), often misunderstood as a massive heart attack, is a treatable condition that does not have to lead to sudden death. When someone suffers SCA, he or she may be fine one minute and then collapse without warning the next. Without immediate intervention, the victim almost always dies. SCA is the leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, AIDS, traffic accidents, house fires and gunshot wounds combined. Only 6-7% survive SCA nationally--but 50% or more could survive. You can make the difference between life and death for someone you care about by knowing what to do and doing it quickly.
1. Learn how to recognize sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). When someone is in SCA, he or she suddenly loses consciousness, normal breathing stops, and there are no signs of life.
2. Make a conscious decision to help. Victims of SCA can only be saved if bystanders intervene immediately. There may not be enough time to wait for professional rescuers to arrive at the scene. The chances for survival decrease 10% with each passing minute after collapse. You may be the victim’s only hope for survival.
3. Call 9-1-1. Or better yet have someone else nearby to call 9-1-1 to get professional help on the way so you can start treatment. Be sure to communicate with a specific person, such as "Bob, call 9-1-1." Otherwise bystanders in a crowd may hesitate and wait for someone else to help.
4. Find and use the AED. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is immediately available, grab it or send someone to retrieve it and bring it to you. Apply the AED electrode pads to the person’s chest as shown on diagrams that accompany the AED. Follow the voice and visual prompts. If a person is in a heart rhythm that needs to be shocked, the AED will automatically shock the heart. This electrical therapy can restore a normal heart rhythm if it is used quickly enough. Do not be concerned about harming the victim. AEDs are safe and effective and can only help. AEDs will not shock someone who does not need to be shocked.
5. Start CPR or chest compressions. If an AED is not immediately available, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Tilt the head back and listen for breathing. If the victim is not breathing normally, pinch the nose, cover the mouth with yours and blow until you see the chest rise. Give 2 breaths. Each breath should take 1 second. If the victim still not breathing normally, coughing or moving, begin chest compressions. Push down hard on the chest (about 1.5 to 2 inches) between the nipples. Do this 30 times. Pump at the rate of 100/minute--faster than once per second. Continue with 2 breaths and 30 pumps until help arrives. If you feel uncomfortable giving breaths, at the very least, push hard and fast on the chest. Sometimes chest compressions alone can mean the difference between life and death.
Remember saving victims from sudden death due to SCA depends on immediate intervention from bystanders. Only you can prevent sudden death!
If you haven't taken a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), spend some time learning these fundamental lifesaving skills. Your gift of time will never be wasted.
THE BOTTOM LINE: YOU CAN SAVE A LIFE
One of the most common reasons SCA victims do not survive is that bystanders hesitate to call 9-1-1, start CPR and use AEDs right away. If you want to save a life, don’t hesitate to get involved. Your actions can only help. Doing nothing is the worst option.
Get involved. Learn CPR and how to use an AED for someone you love.
“Whoever saves a life has saved an entire world.” Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)