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Debunking Myths: CPR and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Myth #1 Cardiac arrest and heart attack are the same thing

False, Cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction of the heart that causes the heart to stop beating, where the person stops breathing and loses consciousness immediately. Without the heart pumping blood to the body's organs, the organs quickly begin to shut down, and the person will die within minutes—in the absence of immediate treatment to restart the heart (the automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable device that can shock the heart into normal rhythm, has been a game-changer in cardiac arrest survival rates).

Heart attacks are damage to the heart muscle caused by a blockage in an artery leading to the heart, thus preventing blood from flowing to the heart. Heart attacks are more related to chronic conditions where cardiac arrest can happen for a variety of reasons, including undetected genetic defects in otherwise healthy young people under 30.

Myth #2 Cardiac arrest only happens to older people with health issues

False, sudden cardiac arrest can happen to our youth and is actually a leading cause of death in student athletes and a leading cause of death under 30. Every 3 days in the US a student athlete dies, potentially from undetected heart conditions.

This is why it is so important for all public facilities to have an AED readily accessible in the case of an emergency. And to ensure we have as many people as possible who are trained in CPR and using an AED.

Myth #3 I NEED to be certified to use CPR or an AED

False, CPR can be very easy to learn and you don't need to be CPR certified to potentially save a life as a bystander. It takes confidence and a few key things to know what to do. So many people assume CPR and using an AED is difficult. Anyone can do it! Just remember 3 things: Call. Push. Shock.

CALL: 911.

PUSH: Start compressions on the middle of the chest about 2 inches deep.

SHOCK: Find the nearest AED, and put the pads on the chest. AEDs are completely foolproof. The machine will tell you exactly what you need to do.

Even if you’re not CPR certified, you can learn the basics of CPR here and feel confident in the case of an emergency:

Myth #4 I can be liable if I help a victim and make the situation worse

False, all 50 states in the US have a good Samaritan law. Under the Good Samaritan laws which grant immunity, if the good Samaritan makes an error while rendering emergency medical care, he or she cannot be held legally liable for damages in court.

  • If a volunteer comes to the aid of an injured or ill person who is a stranger, the person giving the aid owes the stranger a duty of being reasonably careful.

  • Some states will consider it an act of negligence though, if a person doesn't at least call for help

  • Generally, where an unconscious victim cannot respond, a good Samaritan can help them on the grounds of implied consent. However, if the victim is conscious and can respond, a person should ask their permission to help them first.

Myth #5 Cardiac arrest is very rare

False, sudden cardiac arrest is more common than we think

  • In one year alone, 475,000 Americans die from a cardiac arrest. Globally, cardiac arrest claims more lives than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, influenza, pneumonia, auto accidents, HIV, firearms, and house fires combined.

  • More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year.

  • CPR, especially if administered immediately after cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

  • According to 2014 data, nearly 45% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims survived when bystander CPR was administered.

  • The majority of Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrests occur at public settings (39.5 percent), mostly homes/residences (27.5%) and nursing homes (18.2%).

You don’t have to be certified to save a life. Certification is absolutely encouraged, but every

person should have a basic understanding in the case of an emergency. You never know when you may come across a situation to make a difference and save a life. I can say from my perspective I’ve never been more thankful for Erick, a good Samaritan and now close friend who saved my life when he stopped his car to perform CPR for me.

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