What if your daughter went to school tomorrow and didn’t come home? She didn’t run away; she was not kidnapped. She collapsed. In Math Class. You get a call from her friend saying she fell out of her seat and was shaking on the floor, and now she is not moving, and not breathing. They called 911 and help is on the way. No one in her class knows how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and the school nurse is out sick. How can this be happening? Doesn’t everyone know CPR? And isn’t there a defibrillator in her school? You rush to the school. The ambulance has just arrived and the emergency medical technicians are trying to revive her. But it is too late. She needed immediate CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) within three minutes of collapse to have the best chance of survival.
WAIT! This story can have a different ending. As soon as your daughter collapsed, her classmates and teacher sprang into action. They called 911. They recognized that she was not conscious and was not breathing and that she was having a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The shaking was a response of her body to her heart stopping. Her best friend had just learned CPR and AED use in her Health Class two weeks earlier, along with the rest of her class. The students began hands-only chest compressions, pushing hard and fast in the center of her chest at 100 times/minute, relieving each other every two minutes. One other classmate ran to get the AED. In three minutes, the AED was brought back to her classroom, and was applied by another classmate. It checked her heart’s rhythm, recognized that she was having a sudden cardiac arrest, and shocked her back into a normal rhythm. Her eyes fluttered and she began to wake up. You and the ambulance arrived at the same time, and when you walked into the classroom, she looked at you and said “Mom!”
What is a sudden cardiac arrest? It is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who seem to be healthy, even children and teens. When SCA happens, the person collapses and doesn’t respond or breathe normally. They may gasp or shake as if having a seizure. SCA leads to death in minutes if the person does not get help right away. Survival is most likely when people nearby call 911, start CPR and use an AED, if available, as soon as possible.
In the US, each year, SCA strikes almost 400,000 people, one every 90 seconds, 12,000 in Pennsylvania every year, 33 each day, approximately 1500/year or four each day in Philadelphia.
The Chain of Survival begins with recognizing a sudden cardiac arrest, calling 911, starting CPR (hands-only is fine), applying an AED when available, advanced care by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the hospital. But adding more willing bystanders to the chain makes it more likely that the affected person will walk out of the hospital and return to their pre-SCA life. Your child could save the lives of her parents or grandparents. Or of her best friend.
The Pennsylvania State Senate Session of 2018 that began on January 22 should be considering Senate Bill 521 soon. It offers CPR and AED education to all high school students in Pennsylvania high schools. It has been unanimously voted out of the Senate’s Education Committee. All of our youth can become lifesavers. With only one-two hours of instruction and hands-on practice, all of our graduating high school students will know how to save a life. Currently, the number of individuals who receive bystander CPR when they have a sudden cardiac arrest is 40 percent nationally, but only 20 percent in the state of Pennsylvania. Only 10-20 percent of those who experience a sudden cardiac arrest survive. With early CPR and defibrillation, that number can rise to over 50 percent. This LIFE-SAVING BILL NEEDS TO PASS. We need to train a new generation of bystanders and we should start now.
YOU, TOO, CAN SAVE A LIFE!
Contact your state senator and ask them to vote yes to SB 521. Then contact your state representative and ask them to do the same for HB 921 after the Senate bill passes and goes to the House. This is not an added expense for the state, only a few hours of a teacher’s or a volunteer’s time to instruct your student in these life-saving skills.
And after this bill becomes a state law, as it has in 38 other states, ask your child to teach you CPR when they learn it in their high school class (or don’t wait, take a class yourself today!)Submitted on behalf of Victoria L. Vetter, MD, MPH, Director, Youth Heart Watch, Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania