BTN LiveBIG: 5 minutes can save a life

Four years ago, the American Heart Association recommended changing the traditional method of CPR. That same year the AHAS got a vocal champion in Northwestern’s Dr. George Chiampas. He brought passion and a personal story to his commitment to changing the way everyone gets trained on saving sufferers of heart attacks.

Chiampas was the Team Physician with the Northwestern Intercollegiate Sports Medicine for 5 years, and is currently on staff at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Chiampas also serves as the Medical Director for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and Shamrock Shuffle. BTN LiveBIG talked with him about why he is so driven to get everyone trained in the simpler version of CPR.

Dr. George Chiampas

The story about how you were motivated to get involved in hands-free CPR is a personal one. Would you mind sharing it briefly with LiveBIG?

I’m in a multipronged medical discipline, serving as an ER and sports medicine doctor. Cardiac arrest touches both groups. But the personal story occurred in 2006. I was visiting family in Greece. My cousin and my son’s godfather died in my arms from a cardiac arrest while in an ambulance unequipped with an automated external defibrillator (AED) that can keep a heart beating. His death affected me personally and made me look at the vast array of things we could do to improve survival of a cardiac arrest.

Also, I found out a few years later that I have a condition called hypertrophic cardiac myopathy, commonly referred to as enlarged heart. It runs in our family. And it is the number one cause of cardiac arrest in people under the age of 35. When you hear of someone young dying on a basketball court or during a race from cardiac arrest, this is the most likely underlying condition.

In my research and experience I found that simple CPR treatment on someone in cardiac arrest improves their likelihood of survival. If someone starts CPR immediately after calling 911, they can provide the difference between survival and death for the victim. Every minute that goes by without CPR reduces the chance of survival by 10 percent. So every minute counts, while victims are waiting on the ambulance to arrive.

Can you give a simple explanation of what American Heart Association 2-step CPR is, and why it is an important change from the previous model?

Hurdles to the old model were the need for training and the use of mouth-to-mouth. Many people are hesitant to give mouth-to-mouth to a stranger. And the Good Samaritan law only protected those who had gone through the certification training. So, there were medical and legal risks to performing the three step CPR. The 2 step process is simple. Call 911 and then begin chest compressions, 100 a minute in the center of the chest. There’s a short video on the website CCARES that shows you how to do it. It’s quite simple; even a second grader can learn to give effective CPR.

The new American Heart Association CPR process makes a lot of sense. It is cost-effective, since the training is so simple. Everyone should learn it. If everyone knew CPR, we could lower the death rate from heart attacks.

The American Red Cross, the Chicago Police Department and Fire Department, as well as the Chicago medical community have completely embraced the 2-step process. When you began the campaign, did you expect it to be as successful as it is?

No. We started with the Good Samaritan Law. We had it changed so that certification was no longer required. Before, you had to pay $40 and take a course to get the certification. When we started in 2009 to get the laws changed, every group was working in a silo. But when we got everyone together to work on getting the AHA model rolled out, every group was enthusiastic about supporting it. It’s such an easy, obvious solution that makes a difference. I feel that we are starting to see the public step in and make a difference by doing CPR. So getting community support is easy, once they understand how easy and effective it is. It saves lives.

What are some examples of that?

We have had lives saved at the Shamrock Shuffle, at the Chicago Marathon. We had someone give CPR right outside the ER, until medical staff was able to get to the patient. The survivors who have been saved by CPR are some of our biggest supporters. They go out and speak on behalf of CCARES (Chicago Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation Education Services), to get the word out about CPR effectiveness in saving lives.

Your organization, CCARES, is committed to training as many people as possible. What has been the biggest win in getting people in Chicago trained?

We had legislation passed that allows all 6th through 8th graders in Illinois to be shown the training video. All high school athletes watch a similar video. With enough people getting trained, we will start to see a reduction in the 300,000 annual deaths from cardiac arrest. I expect those numbers will start to come down as the program expands.

Where do you take your efforts next?

I and my colleague Dr. Amer Aldeen do this as volunteers, on our own time. We need champions to continue the momentum, to make a difference.

We need to get corporations on board. They need to get their staff trained and to have AED units installed into their offices. We have Metra trains equipped with AEDs and there are posters in the stations about how to give CPR.

Some of the most vocal advocates are parents who lost a child to cardiac arrest. Our goal is to make that a shrinking pool of people. They shouldn’t have to go through the death of a child. As a doctor, I know that we cannot save everyone. But with CPR we can save more people.

When we can say that we have done everything possible to save someone’s life, that’s success.

To learn more about 2 step CPR or to watch the simple training video, go to ccares.northwestern.edu

One life saved

Survivor Patrick Kelly shared his story with LiveBIG:

Last winter I was a physically fit 42 year old. I had been a runner, completing a marathon the previous year. I ate well, exercised, and carried no extra weight. What happened to me could happen to anyone.

On the morning of Jan 23rd, 2013, at my office, I literally dropped dead. I went into cardiac arrest. Because my coworkers were there and trained to respond, they were able to dial 911 and perform CPR. They were able to keep me alive until the ambulance arrived. Once I was at the hospital, the medical team used a cooling technology to assist in my survival, inducing a coma to avoid damage to my heart or brain. My recovery was so complete that I was able to go back to work, running my own business, within six weeks. My children still has a father and my wife still has a husband because of the intervention of my team.

After my recovery, I wanted to do something to help others in the same situation I was in. CCARES had actually had a representative stop by while I was in the hospital, so I reached out to help support their mission. I want to speak on behalf of CCARES, because what they teach literally changed the course of my life and my family’s life.

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