February is Heart Month, a time when we recognize that cardiovascular disease kills 2,200 Americans each day, and more than 900 of these die from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association trained more than 22 million people in CPR last year, but few ever think, “That could be me.”
Even the Association’s own Krisca Gould, a CPR in Schools manager promoting CPR education in schools at AHA’s Midwest affiliate, didn’t think she would ever find herself performing CPR outside of a classroom. So when that panicked call from her mother came in, Krisca found herself stunned as she raced to save her father’s life.
Krisca, thank you for sharing your story. Tell us what happened.
My father had a history of heart issues, including Type 2 diabetes. In November, he suffered cardiac arrest at the age of 76. Despite my advice to always call 9-1-1 first, my frightened mother called me. Thankfully, I was close and dashed over. I moved my dad to the floor, and then I performed chest compressions while my mom called 9-1-1. We worked until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived.
EMS and the hospital doctors stabilized my dad, and he woke-up and was coherent for a short time. Because of that, we had one last chance to be a family – to sing, laugh and say goodbye. If I hadn’t been there to perform CPR, we wouldn’t have had that chance. He sadly passed away a week later from renal failure.
What lessons would you want to impart from what happened?
The first is to take this seriously. Nobody thinks they’ll be called upon to respond to a cardiac arrest; it’s always somebody else. I read it in the newspaper. I heard it from a friend. No one ever believes it will happen to their family, but it does.
I’m that statistic now. Since my dad’s cardiac arrest happened, my sister and my children have all taken a CPR class – and taken it seriously. A class is great because you learn technique and memorize the steps so that you can perform them on autopilot, because in the moment things can feel overwhelming.
The most important thing is to call 9-1-1, then push hard and fast in the center of the chest. If nothing else, this is what you should remember. For every one minute without CPR, the chance of death increases by 10%. Emergency medical services take on average between four and ten minutes to reach someone in cardiac arrest. If the first person on the scene, which is typically a loved one, performs CPR prior to first responders’ arrival, that person will dramatically increase the victim’s chances of survival.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Learn CPR! Drivers buy car insurance; homeowners insure against disasters. Why doesn’t everyone have this insurance that could be the difference between life and death? My last thought is that the living survive better if they took action. There is less guilt, fewer “what ifs.” If you won’t do it for others, do it for yourself. You might need it.