Most of us don’t know about the threat of sudden cardiac arrest.
SCA is an electrical disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm. It is not the same as a heart attack. The only way to survive SCA is with CPR and shocks administered from an automated external defibrillator.
• Think SCA is just another medical condition in a universe filled with a plethora of health problems? The numbers simply prove otherwise. Nearly 300,000 lives lost each year; close to 1,000 each day. More than breast, lung and colon cancer and HIV/Aids combined. The heart abruptly stopping somehow rings a more alarming tone than runny noses or restless legs.
• Think SCA only happens to older, unhealthy people? The faces of survivors and those lost to SCA show a different picture. It’s estimated that 6,500 young people experience SCA each year. In general, the heart can abruptly stop functioning in a young person as equally in an old; male or female; athletic or physically unfit.
• Think somebody will always be there to provide help? The national SCA survival rate is only five percent for a reason. Most often, SCA occurrences are not witnessed, or bystanders do not intervene out of fear or the assumption that someone else will help. For people in rural areas, the numbers are even worse since emergency medical response may not arrive in time.
This year, Congress is getting more involved in the fight against SCA. Rep. Lois Capps (CA) has introduced the Teaching Children to Save Lives Act, which would provide grants for programs to teach school students CPR and how to use an AED. Currently, only 36 states have a law or curriculum standard encouraging such training in schools. On Oct. 26, members of Congress and legislative aides will practice CPR and AED basics firsthand at a broadly supported advocacy event: Take a Stand Against SCA.
We still need help from the public to address this health crisis. October is National SCA Awareness Month, and a symbolic time to take steps in the community to address SCA. Whether it’s learning CPR/AED or locating AEDs in our area or discussing response plans with school nurses and administrators — we can take small steps to better prepare and respond to SCA. First and foremost, start at home by removing fear, apathy and blinders preventing you from understanding the very real threat of SCA. The heart abruptly stopping is scary, but how we prepare and respond to it does not have to be. Expanded public consciousness and bystander intervention are critical not just in October but all year long.
Iowa AED Access For All, the Iowa affiliate of SCAA is a group of survivors and community advocates dedicated to raising awareness of SCA, expanding public access to AEDs, and educating the public on cardiovascular healthy lifestyles. For more information, contact Iowa AED Access For All, P. O. Box 1094, Ankeny, Iowa 50021-1094, or visit www.suddencardiacarrest.org.
Butch Gibbs, SCA Survivor
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