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CPR training key for heart attack survival rate, bystanders

A doctor is seen demonstrating CPR in this file photo.
February 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The American Heart Association issued an advisory Wednesday asking for better bystander CPR training because survival rates of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests remain low. Runner Derek Avdul nearly became a statistic.

"On Oct. 7 I was running the Santa Monica 10K. I was running and went from a complete run to, literally, body went dead," said Avdul.

It was not the photo finish the 44-year-old was hoping for.

"What is happening in that picture is that the paramedics are reviving me," he said.

But how could this happen? He was young, fit and just got married. Yet, a blocked artery stopped his heart.

"Around a quarter of a million people actually die from sudden cardiac arrest in the United States," said Dr. Wally Ghurabi, medical director of UCLA Medical Center, which is Santa Monica's emergency room.

Ghurabi says without immediate chest compressions, most patients will die.

"The battle of pre-hospital cardiac arrest is won and lost in the field," he said.

Avdul is grateful two strangers leaped to his rescue. They did CPR until paramedics shocked his heart back to life.

Four out of five cardiac arrests happen at home, so experts say the life you save with CPR is mostly likely to be someone you love. Some studies show if somebody gets compressions within the first minute, they actually have survival rates as high as 80 percent.

That's why doctors say everyone needs to do CPR. Avdul and his wife, Jean, decided to both get trained.

Studies show you no longer need to do the mouth-to-mouth to save a life, but you do have to be forceful. The chest has to be compressed at least 2 inches, and you can't be afraid.

If anyone needs help, Avdul says he'll be ready.

"We're just trying to do what we can to appreciate the gift that I was given," he said.


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