Posted on 06/26/2008

June 26, 2008­–PITTSBURGH, PA–Reports indicate that NBC journalist Tim Russert died from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) resulting from a heart attack. Russert’s sudden death may help save other lives by raising awareness about the critical importance of calling 911, giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) immediately when SCA strikes.

“Perhaps Tim’s final gift to the nation was to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and the simple actions anyone can take to save a life,” said Bobby V. Khan, MD, PhD, Board Chairman of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation and Assistant Professor of Medicine/Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

About 500 others in the U.S. suffered SCA that fateful day. Most of them died. Their families, too, are in mourning. The 30 people who survived have come to understand they are alive and well because Good Samaritans at the scene called 911, gave CPR and used a defibrillator within minutes of their collapse.

Russert’s death may not have been preventable given his extensive underlying coronary artery disease. But for tens of thousands of people who suffer SCA each year in the U.S., death does not have to be a permanent condition. The victim can be brought back to life if someone nearby has the courage, competence and confidence to act without delay.

Whether SCA is caused by a heart attack, a heart rhythm disorder, severe heart failure, an enlarged heart, sleep apnea or lightning, the lifesaving actions are the same: Call 911, give CPR and use the nearest AED. If these actions are taken within three to five minutes of collapse, the nation’s survival rate of just six out of 100 victims could double or even quadruple in no time.

Perhaps the best way to honor Tim Russert and his family is to learn how to give CPR and use an AED. And to remember this: when it comes to SCA, your actions can mean the difference between staying dead and staying alive.