What to do in a cardiac arrest emergency

The scary scene on Monday Night Football brings to mind cardiac arrest, posing people with the question of the proper procedure in such an emergency.
Updated: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The scary scene on Monday Night Football brings to mind cardiac arrest, posing people with the question of the proper procedure in such an emergency.

“I think the other thing to understand, too is that time is of the essence,” said Regional EMS Medical Director Kacey Kronenfeld.

During the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed, experiencing cardiac arrest. As of Tuesday, he is still in critical condition in the University of Cincinnati Medical Center ICU.

The sobering incident raises the question: What should the average person know if someone collapses at the mall or grocery store?

“This could happen in front of any one of us when you’re out just living your normal life; there are two things that are shown to help somebody survive a sudden Cardiac Arrest like what happened on Monday Night Football,” said UnityPoint-Meriter Dr. Jeff Van Bendegom. “The first is excellent bystander CPR.”

Dr. Van Bendegom, also the Dane County EMS Medical advisor says after checking on the pulse, begin chest compressions, pushing with a depth of two inches, using the ball of the palm of your hand.

“Keep doing CPR until somebody tells you not to or the patient wakes up and tells you to stop,” said Dr. Van Bendegom.

Former firefighter and founder of Wisco CPR, Andy Schoonhoven, says it is also essential to tell specific people directions during an emergency.

“What happens sometimes in a large group of people is someone says, ‘Hey, someone call 911 and get an AED,’ and everyone assumes that everyone else is doing those things, and it doesn’t happen for a while, so we want to assign those tasks of you call 911 you get an AED,” said Schoonhoven.

He adds that an AED, or automated external defibrillator, will have two pads, which go directly into the skin of the chest. One is placed on the underside of the left side of the chest, the other on the right upper side of the chest. The device will make a read of the heart rhythm, lighting up a button if a charge is required. Dr. Van Bendegom says more than 1,000 such devices are located across Madison, many in public areas like malls and restaurants.

One of the keys to helping someone as you wait for medical personnel is acting quickly, providing CPR immediately for irregular breathing or an interrupted pulse. Kronenfeld says minutes are crucial.

“Every minute reduces the likelihood that they survive with intact brain function by 10%, so if you wait for trained personnel to get there, that significantly reduces the likelihood that they’re going to do well,” said Kronenfeld.

You can also take CPR classes to help prepare you for an emergency. Courses can be found through American Red Cross and American Heart Association in Madison or Wisco CPR.

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