The American Heart Association plainly states that those who know how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, will most likely end up saving the life of someone they love. Yet, more than 70 percent of Americans have never been trained to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. Most notable is the AHA’s statistics which show that nearly 326,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually, and 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home. More specifically, African Americans are almost twice as likely to experience cardiac arrest at home, work or in another public location than Caucasians, and their survival rates are twice as poor as for Caucasians, according to the AHA.
Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. It is the sudden incident of electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat chaotically until it suddenly stops beating. A study by the Mayo Clinic shows that a person experiencing cardiac arrest has no more than 6 to 8 minutes to live or experience permanent brain damage. Compare that to the average EMS arrival time, which is about 12 minutes in the District, after a 911 call has been made. While EMS responders have other ways to extend the survival rate, time is of the essence.
This is why we applaud D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s new initiative to train 5,000 District residents and workers in hands-only CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED) by September 2016. “Hands on Hearts” is what she calls the program aimed at providing 20-minutes of training that “could make the difference between life and death for a friend, family member or stranger who needs care before emergency medical services are able to respond.”
We go even further in supporting the plan to require the District to join 27 states and make CPR a high school graduation requirement and we would urge such training to begin in the 8th or 9th grades, before students consider dropping out.
CPR makes life-saving a personal responsibility. We need more people concerned about saving the lives of others, which in turn may save our own.