Mind & Body

Saving Lives in a HeartbeatRevised Guidelines Breathe New Life into CPR Steps

By Christy Kearney

Your husband, your wife, your child, even your pet … If one of them went into sudden cardiac arrest, would you be prepared?

We all have seen cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, performed on shows such as “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Maybe you even took a certification class in high school or college. But would you really be ready if you were called upon to save someone’s life?

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 80 percent of all cardiac arrest occurrences happen at home, and only 6.4 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive.

If a bystander is unable to or does not perform CPR, a victim’s probability of survival decreases between 7 and 10 percent each minute that he or she waits for medical attention, making the ability to perform CPR vitally important.

With the implementation of new emergency care protocols in the “2005 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care,” CPR steps have changed – and you just may not be as prepared as you think you are. The ratio of chest compressions to rescue breaths for adults and children (except newborns) has changed from 15 compressions for every two rescue breaths in the 2000 guidelines to 30 compressions for every two rescue breaths in the 2005 guidelines.

Donna Curry, director of education for Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, coordinates the hospital’s CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care training.

“The new guidelines put the focus on compressions,” she said. “You stop what you are doing and do compressions. You still do the ABCs (Assess, Breathe and Check Pulse), but you do it quickly, then move to compressions. Instead of analyzing and giving long breaths, you give quick breaths and focus on compressions.”

The new motto for CPR training is “Push hard and push fast,” emphasizing the importance of compressing properly and frequently to get blood flowing through the heart.

The good news is that CPR is quite simple – and in this case, knowledge truly is power. The new guidelines are easier to remember than ever, and knowing the proper steps can be the difference between life and death.

“A little knowledge can save a life,” Curry said. “It’s important that Mom knows what to do if Dad goes into cardiac arrest.”

On the Emerald Coast, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center is a leader in training health-care providers and professional rescuers in basic life-support and advanced cardiovascular life-support skills, and in educating the community on the importance of knowing CPR. According to Curry, the hospital has become an official American Heart Association training center and offers a number of community classes and programs ranging from “Heartsaver CPR” and “First Aid” to “Family & Friends CPR” and “CPR in Schools.”

CPR training is readily accessible, with classes throughout the community as well as in-home training via the American Heart Association’s “CPR Anytime” products. The latter include “Family & Friends CPR Anytime” and the new “Infant CPR Anytime”; these 22-minute training DVD kits teach families the basics without requiring them to go to an official CPR training course. They can be ordered online at shopcpranytime.org or by calling (877) 242-4277.

When it comes to child and infant CPR and first aid, local health organizations and schools are preaching that prevention is the best medicine.

“There has been a wonderful increase in awareness for prevention, then immediate care if needed,” Curry said. “This goes back to proper use of car seats, safety around pools, providing proper foods.” Parents, grandparents, siblings and babysitters are trained for “just in case,” but – most importantly – are taught how to avoid potential emergency situations altogether.

Fido and Spot also should be feeling safer these days, with more veterinarians and animal organizations preparing pet owners with CPR training for dogs and cats. The approach is similar to standard CPR, but with special techniques for managing the special needs of pets. Learn more about pet CPR by visiting healthypet.com.

Remember, it pays to be prepared – so empower yourself with the lifesaving knowledge of CPR.




American Heart Association
americanheart.org  (800) 396-2771

American Red Cross
northwestflorida.redcross.org  (800) 773-7620

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center
fwbmc.com   (850) 863-7604