Hundreds participated in Chicago’s largest CPR training event

By Ruojing Liu

Hundreds of Chicago residents participated in the city’s largest CPR training event Friday at the Advocate Center.

The Advocate Heart Institute partnered with the Chicago Bulls and the American Heart Association to organize the event to train more people how to perform CPR during emergencies.

“CPR gives you the power to save a life, and that life could belong to a family member, colleague or friend,” said Dr. Vincent Bufalino, medical director at Advocate Heart Institute.

February is American Heart Month. According to the American Heart Association’s statistics, about 326,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the U.S. each year, and about 90 percent of those happen at home. Among them, the survival rate is only about 10 percent, and survival with good brain function is about 8 percent.

Scientific studies show that each passing minute during a cardiac arrest without proper first aid reduces the chance of survival by 10 percent.

“We need people trained outside the hospital to be able to do CPR,” Dr. Bufalino said “We know that CPR, if done properly, will increase the chance of surviving between two and three times.”

Two-time cardiac arrests survivor Joe Pagone and his wife Jan Pagone shared their stories. Joe was lucky that his daughter’s boyfriend knew how to administer CPR when Joe experienced a cardiac arrest at home. That training saved his life.

On the Chicago Bull’s basketball training court at Advocate Center, more than 20 training spots were set up for participants to learn how to do hands-only CPR, set to the Bee Gee’s classic disco song Stayin’ Alive. The song’s beat just happens to be appropriate for chest compressions, a crucial part of CPR.

“Our goal is to more than double the neurologically intact survival,” said Teri Campbell, nurse and program director of the Illinois Heart Rescue, who also volunteered to offer CPR training at the event.

According to Campbell, when the Illinois Heart Rescue project started three years ago, the survival rate was less than 4 percent for the state of Illinois, and less than 2 percent for Chicago. Currently, the survival rate has risen to 9 percent, with a neurologically intact survival of about 5 percent.

Campbell said there aren’t enough people willing to go into communities and teach CPR, adding that many people are afraid they will do CPR the wrong way.

“Once they come to an event like this, and they see how easy it is, they are willing to do it, and they are willing to teach other people,” Campbell said. “You can learn to save a life in 5 minutes.”

“Just to be comfortable with CPR and know that we’d be able to react and respond without hesitation, that was one of the reasons why I’ve decided to do it,” said Anne Snyder, a participant whose father-in-law passed away from a heart attack. “I learned how to administer CPR, and it wasn’t so scary, and very doable… I’d be very confident to do it again.”

Dr. Vincent Bufalino delivers speech at the event, stressing the important role of CPR in saving people’s life. (Ruojing Liu/MEDILL)

The participants were also introduced to a piece of equipment that was once only used by medical professionals but is now more available outside of hospitals – the automated external defibrillator (AED). It is a portable device that can automatically diagnose vital life signs and instruct the user to apply electrical therapy on the patient, which means that even for people who don’t know how to use the device, it will walk them through every step.

In Chicago, AEDs have been placed in crowded public places like O’Hare International Airport, Midway International Airport, the Chicago Stadium and the United Center, among others.

Currently, about 110 AEDs are placed throughout the two airports. The year before the AEDs were installed in the two airports, only 1 out of 20 people survived a cardiac arrest at O’Hare and Midway. After installation, 9 out of 11 were saved, and two successful cases were carried out by someone who had never used an AED before, Dr. Bufalino said.

In some situations now, people might need a doctor’s prescription to purchase AEDs, but Dr. Bufalino said most physicians would consent to prescribing this life-saving equipment.

Photo at top: More than 20 training spots are set up at the event where volunteers (in purple T-shirts) teach participants how to perform CPR in emergencies. (Ruojing Liu/MEDILL)