After Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during the Jan. 2 Bills-Bengals game, interest in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) surged nationwide, including in Charlotte.
Context: Though a pro athlete going into cardiac arrest on live TV has only happened a few times, cardiac arrest itself isn’t as rare.
Why it matters: Citizen preparedness can mean the difference between life or death when a cardiac arrest occurs, experts tell Axios.
“As a paramedic, when we get called out for a cardiac arrest, we’re 6,7, maybe 8 minutes away, depending on where we are. Outcomes are really dependent on citizen action,” says Richard Shok, an RN, paramedic, and owner of Code One Training Solutions.
In Charlotte, the rise is among people from various backgrounds, including parents who have children in sports.
- “We’ve served these clients in the past, but there are more of them calling in now,” says Lynn Darwish, owner of CPR Works.
- In addition to parents of athletes, Mike Atkins, regional manager of CPR Works, says that they’re fielding requests from businesses and HOAs that are looking to have an instructor come teach the skill.
- Though Code One often provides training for healthcare professionals, Shok says he’s also seeing an increase among the general public asking about CPR classes.
Between the lines: In the event a student athlete experiences an emergency event, CMS high schools have a certified athletic trainer on duty (contracted with Atrium Health) and middle schools have a first responder who is CPR/First Aid certified, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokesperson told Axios.
- All campuses are equipped with AEDs.
- An AED — automated external defibrillator — is a medical device that can restore a normal heart rhythm to someone who has gone into cardiac arrest, per the American Heart Association. One was used to save Hamlin’s life on the field.
What they’re saying: What was striking about the Hamlin situation, Shok says, is “the fact that cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, and it really can happen at any time.”
- Cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, Shok notes.
“Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem, where the heart is just not pumping. A heart attack is more of a plumbing problem, where the heart isn’t getting enough oxygen,” he says.
“A heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest if the heart fails, but cardiac arrest doesn’t have a lot of the same risk factors as a heart attack,” he added.
How it works: In its most basic terms, CPR involves manually pumping the heart from the outside of the body.
- “When you’re doing CPR, you’ve basically taken over the role the heart. Every time you push down, you’re pushing blood out of the heart through the arteries, and that’s going to the brain and the vital organs,” Shok says.
- If you took a CPR course in high school, you may be familiar with the mouth-to-mouth breathing part of the technique.
- Though healthcare providers are still trained to give mouth-to-mouth, now it’s usually performed using a piece of equipment called a bag mask or a pocket mask for infection control purposes, Shok says.
- While mouth-to-mouth is still taught in some CPR courses, it’s seldom used unless you’re performing CPR on a family member or close friend.
- Instead, the AHA has also introduced hands-only CPR, which involves only chest compressions.
The general public “has a lot of fear” about mouth-to-mouth breathing, he says, so the goal of hands-only CPR is to “limit the obstacles” that might stop a person from attempting it.
“The main goal is to keep the brain alive,” Atkins says.
What’s next: If you’re interested in learning CPR, Shok recommends browsing the American Heart Association’s website for a list of classes near you. Depending on the class, it typically takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours to get CPR-certified. This certification lasts for two years.
- You can expect to spend less than $100 on a class, though prices vary depending on which course you choose.
- The American Heart Association’s website offers free virtual hands-only CPR training.
- You can also purchase a $45 CPR Anytime training kit, which includes an inflatable mannequin and a training DVD so you can practice at home.
- In addition to in-person classes, some organizations, like CPR Works and Code One, now offer “blended training” where you complete coursework online and then do the hands-on portion in the classroom.
- CPR Works is planning a free CPR demo day in Charlotte this spring. Their website and Facebook page will have more information.
“There are 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occur every year in the United States, and less than 20% of them go home. By providing CPR and rapid access to defibrillation, we’re giving them a better chance of survival,” Shok says.