Escaping Sudden Death... The Importance of Resuscitation
The facts reported here are true. The author, Mr. Frenette, shares his story to highlight the importance of knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR maneuvers.
A day that seemed to be one like any other day at work and yet, that day, he had a surprise appointment with the prowess of his colleagues.
The day of the accident
On the day of the accident, around 2:15 pm, I left my office and went to sit with a colleague.
Suddenly I leaned forward, hit with a violent headache. I let out a scream of pain, then total blackness.
My colleague first thought it was a joke, but she quickly understood the seriousness of the situation and hurried out of the office.
A quick reaction from everyone around
In less than 10 seconds, the chief of security and the preventionist were at my side. Both trained in first aid, they quickly took control of the situation. I was confused, taking my head in both hands. I lost consciousness.
They launched an emergency call on the airwaves. My breathing stopped and my heart stopped beating.
Would you be able to?
The rupture of aneurism in the brain had caused a great haemorrhage; the pressure in the skull was so strong that it blocked the signals to the heart and lungs.
My colleagues then began the resuscitation maneuvers. I have never lacked oxygen thanks to their knowledge as well as the fact that they knew how to control their emotions.
At the arrival of the rest of the team (10 people), the maneuvers continued.
Guided by the defibrillator
The defibrillation device indicated a single command: "Massage". The only things to do were massage and ventilate.
My colleagues "pumped" me, relaying for 6 minutes, an eternity for whoever has already practiced this type of maneuver, exhausting in every way.
A glimmer of hope
A weak pulse then reappeared, but I still wasn’t breathing. There was a little hope when the weak pulse could be felt, but a new cardiac arrest forced the maneuvers to resume; 5 other minutes of anxiety for the people there. But not for me, I was not “there” anymore.
Because of perseverance, life suddenly "reappeared" in my eyes, as one of my rescuers says. My heart started beating again. When I was taken to the hospital, I left behind people in shock, but happy with the result of their efforts.
I had brain surgery several times. If today I do not have any sequels, my surgeon mentions that it is in large part because I did not "lack air" during the critical period where my heart was stopped.
People who knew what to do
The day after the incident, a technician from the company that makes the defibrillators went to visit my rescuers to give detailed information about the device they used.
He told them that the data indicated that they had done a perfect, flawless job. According to him, the quality of their training was the main reason.
I am obviously grateful to all those who assisted me. I pay tribute to my employer who has invested a great deal in first aid training for as many employees as possible. If I can have dinner every night with my family, it is thanks to them!
We can all save lives
I cannot insist enough on the importance of having adequate medical emergency equipment (defibrillators) both at the workplace and in public places, and having trained people there ready to use the devices and capable of coping with any emergency.
And what about the tunnel?
I am often asked, “Have you seen the long tunnel?”
The answer is: "No, my rescuers blocked the entrance!”
A medical point of view
Mr. Frenette's story puts into perspective the importance of having emergency medical response equipment at work and in public places.
Here is Dr. Paul Poirier’s point of view. He is a cardiologist at a university in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Dr. Poirier instigated a campaign to provide Quebec's public secondary schools with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs).
Why it's important
Excluding hospitals, 8 out of 10 cardiac arrests occur at home or in public places. Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), along with defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart), increase the survivor's probabilities of surviving by up to 75%.
The Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is the device that induces this electrical shock into the patient's heart. It is now available in several public places.
This device assists the user with CPR and it delivers the electric shock in case of fatal arrhythmia. The assistance provided by the defibrillator guided Mr. Frenette’s colleagues in their maneuvers that saved his life.
Read: How to use an automated external defibrillator
Main causes of death
Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in Canada.
Intervention using an early electric shock
A rapid electric shock defibrillation, intended to restore a normal heartbeat in a patient with a life-threatening arrhythmia, is the most appropriate intervention to increase the survival rate when a cardiac arrest occurs.
This rapid defibrillation is a simple, safe and effective way to save lives at work and elsewhere.
Chances of survival decrease rapidly every minute
The odds of a person surviving a cardiac arrest, accompanied by a fatal ventricular fibrillation-like arrhythmia, decrease by 7% to 10% every minute until defibrillation.
Therefore, after a quick calculation, 10 minutes of cardiac arrest without intervention greatly affect the chances of surviving.
Immediate access to a defibrillator could increase the chances of survival by 30% to 50% compared with the using only CPR maneuvers.
Things to know about resuscitation in Canada
In Canada, a cardiopulmonary resuscitation program is already included in all high school compulsory subjects in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
The training is also offered in schools in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Quebec.
Nearly 3 million young people trained
To this date, close to 2,900,000 students have been trained at more than 1,700 schools across Canada.
This program is also mandatory in 34 states of the United States as well as in an increasing amount of other countries.
In the province of Quebec
In November 2017, the Quebec Ministry of Education announced that CPR training is mandatory for all students in Secondary 3, the equivalent of Grade 9 in public schools.
As these lines are being written (January 2019), only 40 schools in the province of Quebec are without a defibrillator.
General practitioners and specialists from Quebec are involved in attaining the goal of equipping every school in the province.
The public is invited to contribute to this initiative. Just talk to your doctor or contact Dr. Paul Poirier directly at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The benefits of mandatory training
The benefits of this mandatory program in schools go beyond the ability to respond quickly in an emergency and manifest themselves at multiple levels.
CPR / DEA training:
• Predisposes people to react quickly during an emergency;
• Significantly increases the number of aware citizens in the community who can provide CPR and use an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), thereby making the environment a safer place for all;
• All young students from Canada, whether they are live in a city or in rural areas are being trained;
• Creates an opportunity for teaching about cardiovascular health;
• Provides certification in CPR and AED training, which can sometimes be useful when applying for a job;
• Promotes leadership and responsible citizenship;
• Promotes careers in health sciences;
• Can sometimes reduce health care costs when a person trained in CPR / AED responds quickly to victims of cardiac arrest, stroke or other emergencies.
Rapid action with a significant impact
People trained in CPR / AED know how to recognize a medical emergency and how to help by calling 9-1-1 quickly, reducing the delay for the paramedics to arrive. The resuscitation maneuvers begin immediately.
Parents, grandparents, co-workers and people in general who will experience a cardiac arrest or a stroke will receive immediate care, their lives will be saved and the quality of their life will be preserved.
Thus, rapid treatment and the use of AED can reduce the costs associated with these situations. The length of the patient’s hospitalization is shortened and recovery is faster. But, most importantly, lives are saved.
Still lots to be done
There is a lot of work still to be done to make our schools, workplaces and public areas safer and more responsive to urgent action in urgent situations.
Each of us can help the cause
Everyone has the power to ask that a CPR / AED device be bought for easy access in one’s living environment, whether at work, in a shopping center or at the gym, for example.