WASHINGTON, October 5, 2010 — In a powerful demonstration of collective standing in the healthcare community, more than 40 organizations gathered on Capitol Hill to issue a call to action in reducing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) deaths. A briefing was organized by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition (SCAC) and held at the Rayburn House Office Building on the 50th anniversary of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). October is National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.
While CPR can double the chance of surviving SCA, only one in four victims of sudden cardiac arrest receive CPR from a bystander. A need for further awareness was the basis for the gathering, in which a call to action was issued for people of all ages to learn how to recognize sudden cardiac arrest, learn CPR, and get familiar with automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Attendees of the briefing also participated in a CPR demonstration.
“Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition is raising awareness about sudden cardiac arrest to a volume that policymakers cannot ignore,” said Alice Lara, chair of the SCAC. “We believe that a few key actions taken by leaders across the country may help save the lives of future SCA victims.”
The more than 40 organizations at the briefing, titled “Moving the Needle on Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survival: A National Call to Action as CPR Turns 50,” specifically asked members of Congress to commit to three agenda items:
- Join the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition and raise awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. To join the Coalition, please contact Melissa Habedank with Senator Dorgan (4-2551), Katie Oppenheim with Senator Crapo (4-6142), Amy Fisher with Congresswoman Capps (5-3601), or Mollie Van Lieu with Congressman Platts (5-5836).
- Work to assure all high school graduates are trained in CPR and AED life-saving skills.
- Fund research allowing scientists to chart a course for better SCA survival outcomes that includes consistent, accurate data collection across the country.
How to Save More Lives
Lance Becker, M.D., one of the country’s leading SCA response experts and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, provided his perspective on the barriers and opportunities in improving SCA survival rates. Dr. Becker, who is part of a nation-wide team of resuscitation experts embarking on an innovative project to reduce SCA deaths, pointed out the progress being made in the role of bystanders, technology, policy and research. He emphasized the importance of and need for more research in the field of cardiac arrest resuscitation, and more uniform outcomes and performance measurement in increasing survival rates.
“It’s been said before that you can’t improve what you don’t measure, and the same applies to sudden cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Becker. “Until we bring the needed resources, research, and national standards for data collection to the forefront, we won’t know for sure what works, what doesn’t and why. We can improve survival rates, and with the help of our policy makers, we can make a real, national impact on a major public health problem that hasn’t changed in 30 years.
Rescue and Survivor Reunite
In an emotional testament to how successful SCA response can save a life, Brian Buck, a 30-year-old SCA survivor, told his story about suffering SCA while playing soccer this summer. Fortunately for him, Cheryl Victoria, the coordinator for exercise physiology and fitness services at the ConocoPhillips Wellness Center, responded to the emergency. Since Cheryl was the first on the scene, she immediately used an AED and started CPR with the help of her coworker Stephanie Held. Buck regained a pulse and was taken to a hospital and treated with therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment that cools the body to prevent organ damage. In the time since this event, he has made a full recovery.
“There is not a day that goes by when I don’t feel incredibly blessed to be alive and grateful for what Cheryl did to save my life,” said Buck at the briefing. “I’m here today telling my story to help make sure other victims get the same second chance at life. My hope is that many more people would be trained in the use of AEDs and CPR and survival stories like mine would become much more prevalent."
Just a few months after helping Buck, Victoria also joined the call to action on Capitol Hill.
“I contributed to saving one life based on my knowledge of CPR, but Members of Congress have the power to save thousands by meeting the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Coalition’s call to action,” said Victoria.
Awarding SCA Awareness Excellence
At the briefing, three journalists and a congresswoman were honored with Outstanding Achievement in SCA Awareness Awards.
Robert Langreth and Matthew Herper, both senior editors at Forbes, were recognized for their extensive reporting on SCA. Langreth and Herper coauthored articles such as, “The Mystery of Sudden Cardiac Arrest,” outlining risk factors, prevention and treatment; “Young Hearts at Risk,” recognizing cardiomyopathy as increasing the risk of arrhythmia; and “Jackson’s Death Focuses Attention on Cardiac Arrest.”
David Epstein, a staff writer for Sports Illustrated, was recognized for writing a 2007 Sports Illustrated cover story, “Following a Trail of Broken Hearts.” The article discussed a congenital cardiovascular abnormality that took the life of Epstein’s friend and former training partner.
Congresswoman Betty Sutton, from the 13th Congressional District of Ohio, was recognized for her sponsorship of H.R. 1380, the Josh Miller HEARTS Act, which authorizes the Department of Education to provide funding to local schools for the purchase of AEDs. The bill passed the House of Representatives in June of 2009.