What happens in the minutes before an ambulance arrives can make a crucial difference for a heart patient, and Baltimore County emergency officials are promoting advanced CPR training and new, user-friendly equipment as critical in the fight against rising fatalities.
At the Perry Hall fire station Thursday, Fire Department officials introduced several residents who survived heart crises, flanked by rescuers they called well-trained, quick-thinking and adept with the latest technology
"Today, I am a walking billboard for CPR," said Kenneth "Boh" Hatter, 53, of Towson. When his heart stopped beating during a basketball game at his church, he said, he was surrounded "by people who knew what to do or found a way to do it."
Without the quick help, Hatter and others said, they might not be attending the event.
The testimony underscored fire officials' efforts to train the public in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and to have automatic external defibrillators available in businesses, community centers and churches whenever possible.
Baltimore County already has installed more than 1,000 defibrillators in its schools, offices, courthouses and recreation centers. Officials are urging other groups to purchase the equipment — which costs about $1,500 — and learn how to use it. The devices are more lightweight and easier to use than classic defibrillators.
"The more AED's we have on the street, the more access there will be and the more lives we will save," said Kyrle W. Preis III, director of the county's emergency services. He added that the department handles nearly 90,000 medical calls annually, the majority of which are heart-related.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs most often when the heart's electrical impulses become irregular and interrupt the pumping of oxygen-rich blood. A defibrillator sends an electrical current or shock through the heart to adjust the irregularity. CPR, a physical exercise that involves rescue breathing and chest compressions, also can help spur blood flow to the heart. Responders usually arrive within minutes of an emergency call, but action by those at the scene can save crucial seconds for the attack victim.
The best-known name among the survivors might be "Detour" Dave Sandler, a WBAL radio personality. He said he passed out as he rounded the bases during a softball tournament last summer at Reisterstown Regional Park. Two physicians on the team recognized he was in heart failure and immediately administered CPR.
"I am thankful they were there and acted quickly," said Sandler, 48. "There was no AED available, but we rectified that quickly."
The team has since added a defibrillator — donated by the University of Maryland Medical Center — to its equipment and carries it during all games.
Cheryl Anne DeHart, a representative for Cardiac Science, a contractor with the county Fire Department, was on hand to demonstrate the ease of using the "one-button operation" on the defibrillator. The device provides clear voice directions for use of the defibrillator and administration of follow-up CPR.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 365,000 Americans a year die of heart attacks and 13 percent of those incidents occur in the workplace.
George Weidner, a 58-year-old accountant, suffered a heart attack in his office at the Baltimore County Health Department. He credits his staff with saving his life by administering CPR and using a defibrillator before emergency crews arrived.sss
"Your folks intervened early and bought you time," Fire Department Capt. Steve Adelsberger told county health workers.
The county Fire-Rescue Academy offers monthly CPR classes to the public. A schedule is available at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/fire/academy. Businesses interested in participating in the defibrillator program should contact the emergency services division at 410-887-4860.
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