Nearly half of the 500,000 annual deaths from heart attack could be prevented if victims received medical help within two hours of the onset of symptoms, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
That is why the American Red Cross has published a booklet that teaches people how to respond to an emergency. "We are losing lives because people are not responding fast enough to emergencies [and] they're not providing the appropriate care while the ambulance or the Emergency Medical Services unit is on the way," says Jim Cassell, spokesman at the American Red Cross' national headquarters.
The brochure, " 'Til Help Arrives," takes a succinct, three-pronged approach -- called "Check, Call, Care" -- to handling medical emergencies. First aid and CPR procedures are pictured as well as clearly described. In addition, some general guidelines are listed for handling injuries and illness.
The pamphlet also attempts to overcome the fear of getting involved in an emergency situation. "People . . . don't want to believe the worst about a situation, and they're confused and that's when the delay occurs," says Mr. Cassell.
Those who fear legal ramifications of getting involved can be reassured that most states, including Maryland, have "Good Samaritan" laws which give legal protection to those who provide emergency care to ill or injured people.
In Maryland, the "Good Samaritan" statute states that citizens giving emergency care are not civilly liable as long as they do not commit an act or omission of "gross negligence," and that care is provided without compensation. The law also covers those who supply care "through communications with personnel providing emergency assistance."
"The spirit of the law will protect any individual or any good Samaritan who stops to render aid," says Liz White, an American Red Cross senior associate.
" 'Til Help Arrives" is available in packets of 25 for $15 plus tax from the Baltimore chapter of the American Red Cross, 4700 Mt. Hope Drive. For more information, call 764-7000, Ext. 7120.