by Cori Hilsgen
Instructors Mike Hengel and Bob Kempenich are working to educate bystanders to help save lives in the event of sudden cardiac arrests.
The two recently offered helpful instructions during a Bystander CPR class March 18 at Heritage Hall.
Both men are part of Take Heart Minnesota which began as Take Heart St. Cloud in 2005. Their goal is to increase survival rates for SCA through a system-based, community-wide approach to faster and better treatment.
While some states still have a zero-percent survival rate, area survival rates have more than doubled since the program began.
During the class, Hengel and Kempenich discussed how an SCA and a heart attack differ. An SCA is a sudden loss of the heart’s function, breathing and consciousness. It is mainly caused by rapid and/or other electrical activity of the heart, known as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, which disrupts the heart’s pumping action and stops blood flow to the rest of the body.
With an SCA, a person is clinically dead within minutes unless immediately treated with defibrillation or with bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation followed by defibrillation. An SCA is not a heart attack.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, can also be fatal. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. The interruption in blood flow causes heart tissue to lose oxygen and damages or destroys heart muscle. It’s important to restore blood flow as soon as possible to prevent heart damage.
An SCA can often occur secondary to a heart attack because the scarred muscle can interrupt the electrical activity of the heart.
An SCA victim will not respond, will not be breathing and will require immediate CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator. If not treated immediately, an SCA results in sudden cardiac death.
During an SCA, Hengel emphasized the person is near death and it’s important to try to help as soon as possible to prevent the brain from being deprived of oxygen for any length of time.
“Do something rather than nothing. Don’t walk away.” Hengel said. “Time is of the essence. Every minute, that person loses another 10 percent chance of survival.”
The men discussed how hands-only CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to be effective for adults because adults often have a store of several minutes of oxygen in their bloodstream and lungs. In the case of infants and children, conventional CPR – with breaths added –may be more effective because infants and children usually do not have any reserve oxygen.
Class participants practiced on manikins. They were instructed to check for responsiveness, shaking the person and asking if they were OK, and also to check for breathing. If no response, they were told to call 911 – keeping the conversation brief to try to save a life.
Participants were instructed to begin CPR compressions at the rate of 100 beats per minute. If they tired, they were told to take turns with others until paramedics could arrive. For conventional CPR, they were taught to use 30 compressions followed by two mouth-to-mouth breaths.
If an AED is available, participants were instructed to turn it on and follow the instructions.
Class participant Mary Kay Kern used an AED during the class, placing pads where instructed and standing clear when told to do so. She said she thought most people should be able to understand the instructions.
Both instructors are sudden-cardiac-arrest survivors and were working at the time of their SCA. They were saved by the help of quick-thinking individuals.
The two discussed with class participant Mark Hilsgen how they had all died and been saved. Hilsgen suffered an SCA while attending Mass in the St. Joseph Catholic Church five years ago. He was also saved with the help of bystanders.
Class participant Joanne Bechtold said she found the training to be very informative.
“I have had training before, but it’s good to sharpen skills again,” Bechtold said.
Hengel and Kempenich have spoken to more than 4,200 people, emphasizing how important it is to try to save lives. They also work to help organizations and others acquire AEDs. For more information, contact Hengel by telephone at 320-237-3619 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.