Tex. AHA Volunteer Launches CPR Awareness Campaign
Mar. 10—If the person next to you were to go into cardiac arrest, would you know what to do?
Ron Mullins has seen what can happen when a person who could help does not know what to do, properly provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation-known as CPR.
Several years ago, Mullins—a volunteer with the American Heart Association and a cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor—had a friend go into cardiac arrest. The person who was with her at the time did not know how to perform CPR. By the time medics arrived, the woman's brain had been starved of oxygen and as a result, she died. The same scenario played out two years later with another one of Mullins' friends. The man had been running on a treadmill when he suddenly collapsed because of cardiac arrest. A nearby person saw the man collapse but did not know CPR. That person also died because his brain was deprived of oxygen for too long.
Those experiences prompted Mullins to do something about raising awareness of the importance of learning how to perform CPR.
"This is unacceptable to keep having this happen. That's what drove my passion to be on the table of the American Heart Association," he said.
A study commissioned by the American Heart Association in 2015 that examined what is called "bystander CPR" showed that The Woodlands bystander CPR rate—defined as the percentage of times a bystander was conducting CPR when emergency medical support arrived at the scene of a heart attack—was significantly lower than the national average.
"It was abysmally low in our area," Mullins said of the study results. "We need people to understand that they need to know CPR."
Mullins and a small group of volunteers formed an ambassador group and on Sept. 29, 2016, began a campaign to educate the community about a simplified version of CPR-called "Hands-Only CPR."
From the 1960s to 2008, CPR guidelines were to lay a person out flat, tilt their chin up to prevent airway obstruction, and alternate between hard, rapid chest compressions and administering mouth-to-mouth breaths after pinching the nostrils closed.
"The methodology has been simplified," Mullins said. "A lot of people didn't know how to find a pulse. A lot of people were extremely queasy about kissing someone else."
In 2008, new guidelines were established and the "Hands-Only CPR" technique was developed. The Hands-Only method involves two steps: first, call 9-1-1, and then begin chest compressions and continue until medics arrive.
Mullins spoke with some friends in law enforcement and asked them why people were not performing CPR. He was told the number one and two reasons people give are "I don't know how to do it" or "I'm afraid I'm going to do it wrong."
"There's really no wrong way to do it. You're just compressing the chest," Mullins explained. "While there's an optimal way to do it, and in the class we teach the optimal way, but there's no wrong way."
The CPR Awareness Campaign for this spring was launched Feb. 3 at the The Woodlands Fire Station 7, where Mullins taught residents the two step method. In coordination with The Woodlands Township, the campaign is hosting CPR classes throughout the township at the eight fire stations.
"The events that we're having at the township actually came about because of an article I read about the Tyler, Texas, fire department," Mullins said. "So I went to Chief (Alan) Benson (of The Woodlands Fire Department) and said if Tyler, Texas, can do this, certainly we can do better."
The pair worked together and built a program where a class will be held at each of the fire departments this year. The program consists of three phases: Phase 1, teaching classes at the eight fire stations; Phase 2, over the summer, at festivals and events, provide a CPR class to those who reach out and request one; and Phase 3, in October, provide education and training exercises at the safety expo for National Night Out.
As a further incentive to get people to learn CPR, the program is offering scholarship money donated by program sponsors as part of the Village Challenge for Hands-Only CPR training. The villages with the top three percentages of residents trained will receive a donation for their scholarship fund for their local school. Training does not include CPR certification.
"In the course of the year, on average, we have about 350,000 people have a cardiac arrest event in the United States," Mullins said. "That's one in 1,000."
It's important to start CPR immediately when someone goes into cardiac arrest because time lost equals life lost. For each minute the heart is not pumping blood, there is about a 7-10 percent chance for the loss of life due to brain death.
Chest compressions alone will not restart the heart, but the compressions do allow oxygenated blood to reach the brain.
"There's a Hollywood myth, that if you do chest compressions—if you do CPR—you're going to recover the person," Mullins said. "If someone has a cardiac arrest, the only thing that can restart the heart is an electrical pulse from a defibrillation. Expect to do CPR until the medics arrive. The most important reason we're doing CPR is to keep oxygenated blood to the brain."
Mullins explained that the classes are to help people become more comfortable with CPR so that when they are in a crisis situation they know what to do. He believes frequent training and continued education could help save someone's life.
"We as human beings are going to rise to our element of training. You train so that when you get into a situation that is dynamic, you have muscle memory to do it," Mullins said. "We don't know how we will react in the circumstance. If we practice and practice, we still may panic, but we can think about the next step—call 9-1-1. Get them on their back and start doing chest compressions."
Mullins added that he doesn't want anyone else to go through the same experience he did when he lost his friends.
"I don't want that to happen to any more of my friends. I don't want that to happen to anyone else in the community," Mullins said.