You never know when you might have the chance to save a life.
For Kathy Harper, a nurse at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, that opportunity came during an otherwise normal day at the gym. During a vigorous run on the treadmill, music pumping through her headphones, Harper said suddenly something did not seem right.
She watched her trainer grab the automated external defibrillator (AED) off the wall and sprint toward the back of the gym.
As a nurse at Sharp Mesa Vista for 17 years, and an ER nurse for more than two decades, Harper knew the AED meant someone was in a cardiac arrest and needed immediate help.
Harper ran to the scene to find a man with no pulse.
Putting her medical experience to work, Harper immediately began CPR, stopping only when the gym staff used the AED to deliver electrical shocks to the man’s heart in the hope his heart would start beating normally again.
Four minutes later, paramedics arrived and took him to a nearby hospital. Thankfully, the man survived. The American Heart Association reports that more than 350,000 cardiac arrests in the U.S. occur out of the hospital.
More statistics show that 70 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes, so an emergency heart event at the gym is somewhat rare. Only 46 percent of people who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrests get the help they need before emergency providers arrive.
“CPR plays a huge role in increasing the survivability of a person who goes into cardiac arrest,” says Debbie Dickie, manager of the Sharp Cardiac Training Center, which offers CPR and emergency cardiovascular care classes to health care workers and the public.
According to Dickie, if CPR is performed within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest, the chance of the person surviving doubles — or even triples. Using an AED to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm, combined with CPR, increases those chances even more.
“The general public shouldn’t feel intimidated about learning CPR,” says Dickie. “There are a variety of CPR classes that teach people the basics, allowing even children as young as 8 years old to learn and perform CPR.”
Dickie recommends that people interested in learning CPR attend a Hands-Only CPR community event, which teaches basic training on chest compressions only — to keep existing oxygen in the body circulating until more help arrives. This skill can save the life of someone in distress outside a hospital setting. For those wishing to become certified in CPR, the Heartsaver CPR and AED class at Sharp is perfect for people with no medical training.
“It’s imperative that everyone knows the basics,” says Dickie. “After all, you might be part of the 46 percent of trained individuals who end up saving a life.”
For the news media: To talk with Debbie Dickie about CPR training for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.