Tightness in the chest, cold sweats, fatigue and nausea — most may be able to recognize the common symptoms of a heart attack, but what to do in the event of one?
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation — or CPR is the recommended course of action, but only half of Americans know how to correctly perform it.
One event on campus tried to change that. Around 15 students gathered in the Quigley Hall Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 7, to learn how to properly perform CPR.
The event was hosted by the Allegheny Emergency Response Organization.
“It’s good to have people on campus that know CPR,” said Alison Hobson, ’20, the vice president of AERO. “You can use CPR even if it’s not a cardiac arrest. No matter what it is, you can give CPR (to a person).”
AERO was founded two years ago and exists as an Allegheny Student Government-recognized club. The mission of the club is to encourage students to learn about how to become a volunteer, paid paramedic or emergency medical technician in the Meadville and surrounding communities, according to Hobson.
“I think our main purpose when we first started was to address the problem in Meadville of the shortage of EMS and paramedics,” Hobson said. “We wanted to teach students how they could get involved and provide them the opportunity to start getting involved (in being a paramedic/EMT).”
One of the other important objectives of AERO is to provide students on campus the opportunity to learn more about potentially lifesaving skills, according to Hobson.
“(We wanted to) give students an idea of how to do CPR in case someone had an arrest on campus,” Hobson said.
Hobson said that while CPR has a specific protocol in order for it to be most effective, doing something is often times better than doing nothing.
While the course had a lower than usual attendance, which tends to be around 50 students, Hobson found some benefit in the lower than usual turnout. AERO had been hosting courses on campus on how to become CPR certified for four semesters. Each of those classes had about 50 individuals in them — so it was not surprising to have lower turnout, according to Hobson.
Gerard Glock is a paramedic at the Meadville Area Ambulance Service, and provided the training at Allegheny through his company, CPR by Glock in conjunction with funding from AERO.
“The importance of CPR is that CPR saves lives,” Glock said. “Everybody should know CPR.”
In the United States, the leading cause of death is heart disease — with around 1 in 4 deaths as a result. Heart attacks are included in this category.
One study from the National Academies found that a person suffering a heart attack outside of the hospital only has about a 6 percent chance of survival, whereas someone in a hospital has as 24 percent chance of survival. Even when an AED is used, the survival of someone in a cardiac arrest incident hinges on getting to a hospital.
That’s why Glock stressed the importance of getting outside help before starting the chest-compressions portion of CPR, especially if there is no one else around. The assistance of a second person in the situation can be useful but is not always guaranteed.
“Paramedics and doctors are great, but we need them there,” Glock said. “Everybody has a cellphone now, put it on speakerphone, call 911.”
While some might recognize familiar myths about CPR, the reality of the practice is that it has changed over the years, according to Glock and Hobson. In his training, Glock always tries to correct what the general public may perceive as part of CPR.
“I teach hands only,” Glock said, referring to recent changes in guidelines for CPR. We don’t have to breathe for anyone anymore.”
While one might think that of all groups least likely to need to learn CPR, college students would be at the top of that list. However, given the overall rise of heart disease in the United States coupled with chance encounters, CPR can still be a necessary skill, according to Glock.
“You never know where you’re going to be,” Glock said. “You have professors, you have other people. The old myth is to be old and have a heart attack, you can be young and have a heart attack.”
Alex Hasapis, ’19, was previously certified in CPR, but figured it was a good time to get a refresher on the course.
“I think it’s important for all citizens to be prepared to help someone if they are in need,” Hasapis said. “I jumped at the opportunity.”
For Hasapis, the importance of CPR is that it can be the major difference between the person surviving the incident or dying as a result of it.
“If … CPR is administered right away, you have like a 60 percent chance of survival,” Hasapis said. “If you don’t get CPR right away, your chance of survival goes down to 13 percent.”
For many, fear of starting CPR on someone comes from a fear that the individual having a heart attack might be further harmed by improper CPR. According to Glock, this is not the case.
“(People) don’t realize all you have to do is push on their chest,” Glock said. “Nobody is going to sue you if you follow the guidelines you’re taught.”
Students in the class welcomed the straightforward approach of the class.
“This instructor gave us a realistic perspective of CPR … we’re not going to hurt the patient any more than they’re already hurt,” Hasapis said.
While the hope for CPR is to have the patient return from the incident, many may not survive. According to Glock and Hasapis, this is a crucial part of understanding CPR training.
“You never know if they’re going to save that life or not,” Glock said. “If you did CPR on them and they still don’t come back, you still did a good job by trying.”
Part of what Glock believes sets his course apart from others is the method in which he guides people through the process.
“The key to teaching is teach them like they’re an adult,” Glock said. “Just because I’m a paramedic and you’re not, doesn’t mean I’m superior to you. I don’t beat anybody because you’re college kids.”
The hope for those that get CPR certification is that they would never have to use it. But in his position as a paramedic, Glock knows that it can often be the difference between life and death.
“Just before Christmas we went on a call … it was a distance to get there,” Glock said. When we got there we took over CPR (from the wife). Long story short, he walked out a few days after Christmas because his wife started early CPR.”
Glock emphasized the importance of starting early and continuous CPR on an individual, even if they may not survive.
“Start CPR unless they don’t have a head,” Glock said.