A Life Saved, Automatically!

Bystanders performing CPR and law enforcement officers equipped with a readily-available electronic device saved the life of a 74-year old heart attack victim in Cayucos, California. In both cases, a few hours of training made all the difference.

Ben Hunt was having dinner with his wife at a restaurant, when he looked through the window and saw a man collapse on the sidewalk across the street. The couple rushed over. Hunt felt for the man’s pulse and, finding none, began chest-compression CPR, assisted by his wife. A woman passing by, also trained in the life-saving technique, pitched in to help.

A 911 call brought two San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies to the scene. One took over CPR, while the other retrieved an Automated External Defibrillator from the trunk of their cruiser. Use of the AED restored the victim’s normal heart rhythm, and after paramedics transported the man to a hospital emergency room, he was reported alert and talking with family members.

There’s nothing mysterious about using either CPR or the AED. The portable device is designed to diagnose and treat severe cardiac arrhythmia by delivering a shock to the heart, automatically! You don’t have to call a “code blue” or wait for the arrival of medical personnel, but you should get some training in use of the AED, which is very inexpensive. Fortunately, that training is part of the simple process of learning CPR at any American Heart Association-approved facility.

About one third – 500-thousand – of this country’s annual heart attack victims survive. The rate skyrockets in direct proportion to the speed with which CPR is employed, and climbs even higher when an AED is used. And it’s not merely survival: coming away from a cardiac arrest without serious medical complications depends on quick and proper application of CPR. Life itself and life quality hang in the balance in the minutes following a heart attack.

In the past few years, the Heart Association has adopted new guidelines for effective CPR. Whether it’s a stranger or a loved one at home, the life of a heart attack victim may depend on your knowledge of contemporary techniques. Acquiring that knowledge is easy. The rewards are beyond calculation.


Tom Sirmons