Sudden cardiac arrest


Could You Be a CPR Hero?

If someone collapses in front of you and no one is nearby to help, would you know what to do? It’s a scenario that plays out somewhere, in some form, every day.

For the more than 350,000 Americans who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, the prognosis is not always optimistic. Most studies suggest that only one in ten will survive. But quick action with CPR and a defibrillator can be the key to saving a life.

“If it does happen — because inevitably it will — an understanding of what cardiac arrest looks like and how to respond are imperative because moments, seconds, minutes count,” says Eli Friedman, M.D., medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “The sooner the person gets the appropriate treatment, the better their prognosis at the end of the day.”

Cardiac arrest is the sudden stopping of the heart and can happen for multiple different reasons. A person who suffers a cardiac arrest in public has double the chance of surviving if a bystander steps in to restart the heart before an emergency crew arrives, especially when an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is used, one study found.

Cardio pulmonary resuscitation, also known as CPR, can keep the person’s blood flow active and extend the opportunity for successful treatment.

When Help Is Needed

While most people are aware of CPR, many hesitate to step in and apply these life-saving chest compressions, especially if they don’t know the person in distress. Surveys show an even smaller percentage of people have the confidence to deploy an AED device, usually available in many public places such as schools, shopping centers, airports and places of worship.

During CPR and AED Awareness Week and all year round, Dr. Friedman urges everyone to familiarize themselves with the basics of CPR and using an AED before they need it. Instructional videos and courses are available online and through different safety organizations, he says.

In an emergency, however, don’t worry if you are not formally trained or certified.

“If you check for a pulse and you do not feel one, then CPR should be commenced immediately,” Dr. Friedman says. Mouth-to-mouth is not required. With the person lying flat on their back, kneel next to them, place your interlaced hands in the middle of their chest, lock your elbows and apply vigorous compressions to the rhythm of the Bee Gees disco hit, Stayin' Alive (between 100 and 120 compressions per minute.)

“Imperfect CPR is better than no CPR, especially if somebody is in cardiac arrest,” Dr. Friedman says. “Doing something is better than doing nothing. You respond, and you do your best.”

Using an AED, when available, is surprisingly simple because the devices are very automated, Dr. Friedman says. Once patches are applied to the person’s chest, the machine assesses the situation, gives verbal instructions to bystanders and applies a shock, if needed. There is no risk or danger to the bystander, he says, as long as the instructions are followed.

They're foolproof. The device will talk you through it. It will be as if an instructor is right there with you,” Dr. Friedman says. “If somebody is in cardiac arrest and is unresponsive, call 911, start CPR, have someone get that AED, place the pads on the person, and the AED will take care of the rest for you.”

Preparing for the Unexpected

Being familiar with CPR could save the life of someone you love. Some 70 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the home, according to the American Heart Association. In many cases, family, friends and bystanders are unsure how to respond and waste precious time before help can arrive.

“When someone is suffering from cardiac arrest, time is not on their side,” Dr. Friedman says. “Immediate CPR can be the difference between life and death.”

Cardiac arrest can affect anyone, even if the person does not have preexisting heart disease.

Earlier this year, football fans watched in horror as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, 24, experienced a sudden cardiac arrest following a tackle during a nationally televised NFL game. Within moments, he received CPR and his heart was restarted with an AED. That rapid response is credited with dramatically improving his chance of survival and recovery. He is back to practicing off-season with his team.

There are up to 23,000 Sudden Cardiac Arrests among young people aged 18 and younger in this country every year, with 40 percent of them among kids participating in athletics.

Dr. Friedman is well-known for promoting well-rehearsed emergency action plans, which he highly recommends for every organization, school or institution that sponsors athletic activity. He is a member  of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition, a newly-formed partnership led by the National Football League with support from multiple other professional sporting organizations and national governing bodies of sport. .

Since 2018, Dr. Friedman has helped develop the Heart of a Champion program which teaches trainees – including coaches, student-athletes and athletic administrators – how to recognize and respond to cardiac arrest in a sports setting. The program has worked with the Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers, United States Tennis Association, and the soccer officials from the Professional Referee Organization. He is also an advisory sports cardiologist for Miami-Dade County and Broward County Public Schools Sports Medicine & Student Wellness Committee.

Dr. Friedman, who serves as the cardiology medical advisor to the Women’s Tennis Association and is team cardiologist for Inter Miami CF and the Panthers, has been passionate about the field since he saw a young man collapse and die near the finish line at a marathon running event at years ago.

“Things happen. The ultimate insurance plan that any of us have, whether or not we're an athlete or we're just at home with our family, is knowing how to recognize cardiac arrest, knowing how to respond to it, and knowing how to treat it,” Dr. Friedman says. “Simply by education, by getting the word out there and training people how to do this, we can save lives.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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