Santa Paula Fire Chief Rick Araiza told Rotarians his own life was saved about four years ago while attending a conference in Florida.
During dinner, Araiza said what he initially thought was acid reflux was far more serious: “I choked” on food caught in his throat but a bystander quickly used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the blockage that could have killed Araiza.
SPFD Firefighter Andy VanSciver gave a brief update on the department noting it has two stations staffed round the clock with two engine companies. Engine companies are four-person crews with three full-time firefighters supplemented by a reserve.
Although Santa Paula firefighters are trained EMTs, VanSciver said, “Everyone should know CPR... anyone can learn how to do it and should,” as 70 percent of the population does not know how to administer CPR.
Of the approximately annual 383,000 cardiac arrests that occur nationwide, 88 percent are suffered at home.
VanSciver said people should study symptoms of cardiac arrest, which do not always adhere to conventional belief and are different in men and women.
“People can experience shortness of breath,” indigestion and other markers of a heart attack, but VanSciver said “there’s not always arm pain,” that most believe is a strong indicator of cardiac arrest.
Of all the cases of cardiac arrest only 32 percent of those stricken receive CPR from a bystander, and, “If not treated immediately, less than 8 percent will survive...
“Make the save,” if you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”
CPR can more than double a person’s chances of survival, and VanSciver said “Stayin’ Alive” has the perfect beat for Hands-Only CPR.
“... don’t stop until help arrives,” he noted.
Those who experience symptoms that could be a cardiac arrest “Must go to the hospital immediately,” preferably by ambulance, which triggers immediate treatment.
“Time,” said VanSciver, “is muscle,” and the faster treatment is started the less heart damage there is... and less likelihood of death.
Firefighter Nick Bacigalupo noted that recent Hands-Only CPR AKA Sidewalk CPR was held at the Santa Paula Shopping Center outside Vons.
Sixty people were trained “In how easy it is to save a life and not a single person,” said Bacigalupo, “said ‘I don’t have time’ and many others said they were taking the course for the second or third time... and those trained last year showed they still retained the training!”
Instruction only takes a few minutes in the new CPR method developed after studies showed people had an aversion to mouth-to-mouth rescue that was also found to be less important than the chest compressions.
And doing the chest compressions, “every push,” keeps a little bit of oxygen circulating to the heart.
“That little bit,” said Bacigalupo, “is better than nothing... “
If you see someone suddenly collapse or already down, call 911 and start Hands-On CPR - push hard and fast in the middle of the chest - until help arrives.
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