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Stayin' Alive: EMS teaches CPR, use of AEDs

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Pasquotank-Camden EMS personnel (left) use dummies to instruct area residents on the proper way to use an automated external defibrillator on a patient suffering cardiac arrest, during the "Stayin' Alive: A Community Approach To CPR event at Berea Baptist Church, Saturday.

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By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

It sounds funny but a popular song by the 1970s music group the Bee Gees could help save the life of someone suffering cardiac arrest. 

About 75 people attended the first-ever “Stayin’ Alive: A Community Approach To CPR” event hosted by Berea Baptist Church on Saturday. The event provided residents basic instruction in CPR and familiarization with a life-saving device known as an AED, or automated external defibrillator. The hour-long class was led by Jerry Newell, director of Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services. 

“This is about learning how to do what you need to do in an emergency,” said Newell, emphasizing that responding to a patient with a basic knowledge could go a long way toward saving a life.

“The worst thing you could do is do nothing at all,” he said.  

Cardiac arrest, which is essentially the sudden stop of blood flow to the brain because the heart stops pumping, affects about 300,000 people each year in the United States, Newell said.

He scanned the attentive audience before making his next point.

“One of you in this room right now could (one day) be in the position to perform CPR,” he said.

Faith Whitehurst, 17, was among those in the room. She said she was attending the training because she is interested in becoming a paramedic and possibly even a flight paramedic. She was joined by her grandmother.

“It’s sort of a grandmother-granddaughter outing really,” said Debbie Mills. “I hope I don’t have to use it but I’ll be glad I had the training if I do.”

Whitehurst and Mills were among the first to tour the Nighingale Regional Air Ambulance helicopter after its crew landed on a baseball field adjacent to the church. The crew gave tours of the helicopter and answered questions. Also participating were two ambulances and their crews and a fire engine from the Providence fire station.

Newell explained the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.

“A heart attack is when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the heart and interrupts blood flow to the muscle,” he said. “That lack of blood flow causes a lack of oxygen to the heart. That’s what causes the chest pain when someone has a heart attack.”

If the clot is discovered soon enough the patient can be treated with medicines, a stent or through surgery, he said.

“If ignored or gone undetected, a heart attack will turn into sudden cardiac arrest,” he said. “SCA takes you down immediately and the heart is quivering and unable to efficiently pump blood. That rhythm is known as ventricular fibrillation.”

Once the heart stops the patient’s chances for survival drops about 10 percent for every passing minute, Newell said.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is the use of compressions applied to the center of a patient’s chest above the heart. The purpose is to maintain oxygenated blood flow to the body until an AED or a defibrillator, like one used by EMS personnel, can be administered to try to revive the patient, Newell said. 

Bystander CPR and AED usage is important because it takes time for EMS personnel to arrive on scene with the patient, he said. 

The person performing CPR uses both hands with fingers laced to compress the chest at least two inches at a pace of about 100 to 120 compressions per minute. An easy way to remember the number of compressions is to apply them to the beat of the Bee Gees song, “Staying Alive,” Newell said.

He even played a snippet of the song for the audience, pointing out that its rhythm is about 106 beats per minute.

CPR also could include the use of artificial ventilation, in which mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is used to flow air into the patient’s lungs. Saturday’s training taught the compressions-only, or hands-only, method. That’s because it’s the easiest method to teach untrained medical personnel to use on someone suffering cardiac arrest.

Saturday’s training session featured a video and afterward Newell asked the audience questions testing what they had learned. He next passed around several training versions of an AED, which is a portable device that administers an electric shock to a patient who is suffering cardiac arrest. The electric shock is intended to kick-start the heart. Newell said that the AED will only apply the shock if it detects an irregularity in the patient’s heart beat.  

Residents opened the AED cases and examined the contents and read over the instructions.

Newell also played aloud the recording of an actual 9-11 call of a patient who experienced cardiac arrest while working out at Planet Fitness in Elizabeth City. Newell identified the man only by his first name, Clyde.

In the recording a caller at Planet Fitness tells the dispatcher that a man about 50 to 60 years old has collapsed and is turning red and not breathing. Another man who identifies himself as the manager gets on the phone and says someone has begun administering CPR. Next, a bystander at the gym used an AED on the patient, which revived him.

After playing the recording Newell called Clyde and put him on speaker phone. Newell told the audience that Clyde’s experience happened about two years ago while he was using the stair climber machine at Planet Fitness.

“Oh, yea, I remember that,” Clyde said, drawing a laugh from the audience.

Newell said Clyde was lucky that day because working out a few machines over from him were two off-duty hospital nurses. They were the ones who began administering CPR.

Clyde was flown to a hospital in Greenville, where doctors discovered an arterial blockage and performed surgery.

Newell concluded the phone call by asking Clyde how he’s feeling now.

“I’m doing well,” he said, drawing applause.

Newell said that he was pleased with Saturday’s turnout. He also announced that a similar training session will be held at Church of the Redeemer in Camden County on March 30. Registration for the free event will be posted on the Pasquotank-Camden EMS facebook page on Tuesday, he said. 

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