Be a Real-Life Hero: Jump-start a Heart!

Oct 20 08:54 2009 James H. O'Keefe, MD Print This Article

When the heart stops beating, the only intervention that will reliably restore the heartbeat and blood circulation is an electric shock.  How quickly this shock is delivered after a cardiac arrest is critically important: for each minute that ticks by from the time of the cardiac arrest to the delivery of the shock, the chances for survival diminish about 10 percent.  Should you witness someone collapse, the first two thoughts to flash into your mind ought to be….

Only one thing could have saved Tim Russert after he collapsed in the television studio. Tragically it was hanging only a few feet away from the bystanders who watched helplessly as Russert’s chances for survival slipped away while they waited for paramedics to arrive. He suffered a cardiac arrest,Guest Posting triggered by a coronary artery that had just recently clotted shut, leaving a large segment of his heart starving for blood and oxygen.

When the heart stops beating, the only intervention that will reliably restore the heartbeat and blood circulation is an electric shock.  How quickly this shock is delivered after a cardiac arrest is critically important: for each minute that ticks by from the time of the cardiac arrest to the delivery of the shock, the chances for survival diminish about 10 percent. So if you can shock a cardiac arrest victim within the first minute or two, almost all survive; if seven minutes go by, the chances for revival with a shock fall to 30 percent; by 10 minutes, almost nobody survives. 

Tim Russert was surrounded by his co-workers while he was preparing to go on air for a TV show when he collapsed, and an automatic external defibrillator (AED) was just a few steps away. Whether the onlookers forgot about the AED, or were unfamiliar with its operation, or were just paralyzed by fear in the heat of the moment is unclear. One thing is clear—Russert’s untimely and unnecessary death should serve as a wake-up call to the nation about the growing availability of AEDs in public places and work sites, and how easy these life-saving devices are to use.

Sudden cardiac arrest is still the single most common cause of death—killing 310,000 Americans each year. The only real hope for survival for anyone with cardiac arrest is an electric shock to “jump-start” the heart. You need not have ever seen one of these devices to operate it quickly and correctly. 

If you witness a person collapse into unconsciousness, have someone call 911 while you look for and yell for an AED. If one is available, open up the case, place the two patches directly on the skin of the chest (one over the middle of the front of the chest and the other on the left side of the chest) and simply press the “on” button. The computer in the AED immediately analyzes the heart’s rhythm and automatically delivers one or more shocks as needed. If the person has only fainted, the device will just monitor the heart and no shocks will be delivered. If the AED is going to deliver a shock, it will instruct you to stand clear of the person.

 If co-workers quickly had placed the patches, the AED would have restarted his heart, restoring the blood circulation, and he would have likely regained consciousness immediately. When paramedics arrived they would have rushed him to the hospital, where instead of ending up in the morgue, Russert would have been brought immediately to the cath lab and a cardiologist would have promptly opened the blocked artery with a stent and stopped the heart attack. Indeed, had the AED been used, Tim Russert might very well already be back on the air by now with a new lease on life.

Inaction Kills: Don’t Just Stand There, Grab the AED!

I am not implying that Russert’s co-workers let him down; most Americans are not aware of the AED’s importance, growing availability, and simplicity of use. Instead, I am pleading that his tragedy be recognized as a teachable moment. 

Every second counts during a cardiac arrest and inaction kills. You can be a real-life hero and save a cardiac arrest victim by simply slapping two AED leads on his or her chest. Should you witness someone collapse, the first two thoughts to flash into your mind ought to be:

1. Call 911; and

2. Where’s the AED?

By the way, the prices for AEDs are falling (about $1,300 today), and some of my cardiac patients are already choosing to buy an AED for their homes, rather than a fifth television, for example.   

One final point: in the setting of a cardiac arrest, rescue breathing is not recommended anymore. If a person is lying unconscious without a pulse and an AED is not available, while you wait for the paramedics to arrive, you only need to do chest compressions. While leaning directly over the victim, deliver downward thrusts, fast and hard, to the middle of the breastbone at a rate of about 100 times per minute.

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

About Article Author

James H. O'Keefe, MD
James H. O'Keefe, MD

Dr. James O’Keefe is a practicing preventive cardiologist at Cardiovascular Consultants of the Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute located in Kansas City, MO.  He is actively involved with clinical research, has published over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and is the lead author of several books including The Forever Young Diet & Lifestyle.

View More Articles