Monday, October 24, 2016


Everyone should learn life-saving CPR

One of the best pieces of news I have heard in a long time is that many high schools are now requiring students to learn CPR before graduation. I have long believed that everyone, not just medical personnel, should learn CPR. You never know when you will need this skill to save the life of a family member, friend, or neighbor. Basic life support classes also teach how to help someone who is choking, how to use an AED (an Automated External Defibrillator), and how to recognize signs of a stroke or heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually. Unfortunately, 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. This alarming statistic could hit close to home, because home is exactly where 70 percent of cardiac arrests occur.

Here is a perfect example. My friend was standing at her kitchen window watching her neighbor mow his lawn. Suddenly, he stopped, clutched his chest, stumbled and fell on the ground. She rushed out, called 911 on her cell phone, and started to administer CPR. Fortunately, she had just completed my basic life support class where she had learned CPR and was able to quickly spring to action.

Most people die from cardiac arrest because they cannot survive — or cannot survive without brain damage — long enough to be defibrillated. When someone is in cardiac arrest, he or she needs prompt resuscitation by someone trained in CPR using chest compression. That is the only thing that will keep a patient alive long enough for emergency personnel to arrive and defibrillate the heart. The window of opportunity is small — only five to seven minutes to defibrillate before brain damage occurs unless successful CPR is done.

There is an increasing availability of defibrillators in public places, workplaces, planes, even some homes. But it’s even more critical for people to learn the simple skills that can save lives in the event of cardiac arrest. Call The American Red Cross, American Heart Association or American Ambulance in Norwich to find out where a class is being offered. As the American Heart Association declares on their website “Simply put, the life you save with CPR is most likely to be someone you love.”

Alice Facente is a former community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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