CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We’ve all heard it; CPR can mean the difference between life or death, but that saying is especially true for people who experience sudden cardiac arrest.
“You can be very young, you can be very old, it does not matter. Cardiac arrest does not discriminate and can affect anyone at any time,” says Gabrielle Purick, Program Administrator for Keep the Beat, Mecklenburg County.
Sudden cardiac arrest is when a person’s heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who seem to be healthy, including children, making it the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S.
It’s different than a heart attack in that a person who goes into cardiac arrest passes out, is unresponsive and unable to breathe on their own.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is extremely fatal, it takes over 90 percent of the lives it affects,” which is why Purick said CPR is so crucial to survival.
“For every one-minute that someone is on the ground having a cardiac arrest without help their chance of survival goes down 10 percent,” she said.
It’s also why Omar’s case is such a testament to the power of CPR. Paramedics with Mecklenburg County EMS say this September Omar, a healthy 28-year old, went into sudden cardiac arrest. They say his heart stopped beating for 19 minutes.
“His case is actually what we aim for all of our cases to turn out as, so Omar got bystander CPR right away, got help on the scene, by the time our paramedics and EMT showed up, bystander CPR was being performed and now he’s alive and well today because of it,” said Purick.
Every year Mecklenburg County EMS transports more than 155-thousand patients.
But every so often, some of those patients return to thank the first responders who helped to save their lives. This December Omar and his family made a visit to MEDIC headquarters to meet the paramedics who helped to save him.
“Having patients come back and visit our teams that worked on them is personally my favorite part of getting to work here. We get to see Omar come back with his family, his child and his wife and really show the fruit of the labor that our employees work so hard to achieve,” said Purick.
He’s now sharing these special moments, showing how a life can be saved, by simply knowing CPR.
Purick says anyone can take free CPR classes through Keep the Beat. Keep the Beat is a joint initiative of Mecklenburg EMS Agency (Medic), Mecklenburg County, Atrium Health, and Novant Health that aims to reduce out of hospital cardiac mortality by increasing bystander CPR in Mecklenburg County.
The program offers free bystander CPR training, AED awareness and the PulsePoint app availability PulsePoint app is an app you can download to your phone, which sends out an alert when someone nearby is in cardiac arrest.
Purick says the county began using the app at the beginning of 2019 and already has more than 4,000 residents who have downloaded it.
According to MEDIC, more than 1,000 patients have survived and thrived after suffering sudden cardiac arrest in Mecklenburg County since 2010.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is extremely fatal, it takes over 90 percent of the lives it affects so to have 1000 people walking around our community who otherwise wouldn’t be is something we should be really proud of and it goes out to our community members who performed CPR before our people got there,” she said.