CHARLESTON, W.Va.– Every year, over 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of hospitals in the United States, and about 90 percent of those who suffer from these arrests die.

American Heart Assn.

Ripley High School students trained in life saving procedure as a requirement for graduation

The American Heart Association is working to change those odds through National CPR and AED Awareness Week which is taking place this week. The week’s goal is to raise public awareness and boost the amount of people who perform CPR in cardiac arrest situations.

The AHA wants more people to understand and be able to perform CPR in emergencies, said Kevin Pauley, communications director for the Charleston division of the AHA.

“The American Heart Association understands that the need for people to know CPR is just incredibly great, because the majority of cardiac arrest events that happen in this nation happen outside of a hospital,” he said. “They happen more closer to the home.”

Shauna Johnson/WVMetroNews.com

The AHA offers free Hands-Only CPR training with kits and in-person instruction. 

One issue that the AHA sees occurring is that many Americans don’t perform CPR, because they are either afraid of hurting the person or don’t know what to do. Because of that, about 46 percent of those who go into cardiac arrest outside of hospitals get the help they need before professional help arrives.

“We know that when somebody drops from cardiac arrest, their odds of surviving that arrest actually decrease about five to ten percent per minute,” Pauley said. “So within five minutes, you’ve maybe got a 50/50 chance of surviving cardiac arrest.”

The AHA recommends an easy approach to CPR that can help save lives.

“One of the things that we look at with CPR Awareness Week is just letting people know that there are two easy steps to perform CPR by using what we call ‘Hands-Only CPR’,” Pauley said.

The two steps to Hands-Only CPR are: call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest until medical help arrives. Pauley said an easy way to administer the correct amount of compressions per minute, 100 to 120, is to pump to the tune of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees.

CPR can be especially crucial when the event is taking place far from a hospital or help of any kind.

“In West Virginia, which is a pretty rural state, we know there are places in the state where EMTs can’t arrive within maybe 30 to 45 minutes of someone calling 911 just because of where they’re located,” Pauley said. “So if you’re getting that help until EMTs arrive, your chances of surviving will increase because you’re still getting that oxygenated blood going through the body.”

Pauley said that he has even trained young children in CPR.

“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve seen kids as early as 7th grade get CPR training, and those 7th graders have actually been able to save a life, because they knew what to do when like a grandparent or a parent dropped. So, CPR truly can save a life, and if anything, it gives that person a fighting chance until EMTs arrive,” he said.

The AHA also recently passed a law that requires all high school graduates in the state of West Virginia to have CPR training. West Virginia is the 21st state to pass this law, and the AHA is pushing for more states to join the list.

“We are seeing over 17,000 students graduate every year, and that’s just 17,000 more boots on the ground of people who know how to perform CPR,” Pauley said.

While CPR is crucial to saving someone in cardiac arrest, automatic external defibrillators are important as well. Though not many homes contain them, if you are in a building with an AED, you should use it.

“If you have access to an AED, by all means, get it to it, bring it out, use it. It’s important, ad it truly can help make a difference, because that is such a powerful tool, because it does help administer the shock to help reset your heart rhythm,” Pauley said. “So if you have an AED, get it, get it on the person, but also do the CPR, because, again, the two work in tandem.”

Knowing CPR can be an extremely important asset to have in your arsenal if you ever need to save a life.

“Truly, CPR is something that everybody should know,” Pauley said. “We kind of liken it to that saying, ‘I’d rather have a gun and not need it than need a gun and not have it’. I would rather know how to do CPR and never have to use than see one of my family members drop and not know what to do.”

For additional CPR tools and resources, visit www.heart.org/HandsOnlyCPR or www.heart.org/CPRWeek.

Story by Jordyn Johnson

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