February 14, 2007 will always be etched in my brain. Not because of some fancy proposal or a bouquet of roses from a secret Valentine.
It’s the day my heart stopped beating.
At the young age of 27, I suffered sudden cardiac arrest. Thanks to the swift action of co-workers and local responders, I’m here to celebrate this Valentine’s Day with my family.
While my recollection of the specific events of that day are foggy, the lessons I learned are crystal clear. Over the past 13 years, I have realized how confidence, training and mindset are essential to changing our outlook on the way we view heart health and sudden cardiac arrest.
My life was saved because a co-worker knew how to give CPR and began immediately while first responders were in route. This seemingly simple act was what I needed most in that critical moment.
I wish more people had this kind of confidence when it comes to medical emergencies like sudden cardiac arrest. For many, CPR and lifesaving actions are not everyday occurrences. In fact, CPR training has historically been thought of as a “certification” for lifeguards and medical professionals.
What kind of confidence would the general public have if CPR education was more commonplace? If it was brought to them in a convenient location and setting? By providing basic training, we can encourage bystanders to take swift action in times of crisis. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
The more confident, and willing, we can be to help in time of need, the more lives we can save.
Everyone believes it will never happen to them. I certainly didn’t. After all, I was 27 and newly married. It was my first week at my new job. I had everything going for me … until I didn’t.
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone. The CDC estimates that 3.1 million people are impacted by heart disease annually. Cardiac arrest is the nation’s leading cause of unexpected death. Every day, 1,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest. Only 10 percent survive.
We must change our mindset when it comes to heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest. This begins with an understanding of what sudden cardiac arrest is. Second, we must recognize it’s prevalence by requiring it to be a reported condition to the CDC or other health agency. With mandatory reporting comes better data, more research and an improvement in education.
We live in an age of information. All it takes is a Google search to find the best place to eat, the closest mechanic or a review of the massage place you’ve been meaning to try. We are trained to know as much as possible, or at least as much as we possibly want to know about a given subject.
Yet training is what seems to be missing when it comes to sudden cardiac arrest. Swift action saved my life that Valentine’s Day 13 years ago. Yet so many don’t know what to do when faced with that type of situation.
That’s why simplified, free, accessible training and educational programs are crucial. One such example is the #SaveMoreLivesChallenge through Starting Hearts. This program educates participants on three preventative steps:
- CALL 911 right away.
- PUSH on the chest or begin CPR immediately. Don’t wait for paramedics to arrive.
- SHOCK using an automated external defibrillator.
In addition to training, we must have lifesaving devices readily available. For instance, only one in 10 citizens knows the location of a defibrillator. Even if they did, the equipment is not required to be maintained or even documented.
The more we can provide access to training for the general public, as well as properly updated and well-placed equipment, the more lives we save the more hearts from being broken.
It’s Time to Save More Lives
This Valentine’s Day, I’ll be celebrating with my husband and 5-year old. While there may be a fancy dinner or a sentimental card, there will also be gratitude for the gift that I’ve been given. I learned three valuable lessons that day. Through accessible training, a shift in mindset about heart health and confidence in action (when necessary), we can prevent more hearts from breaking.