Dr. Howard Mell's quest for 10,000 adults to learn hands-only CPR in a year...

From: The Plain Dealer - Northeast Ohio

Whatever happened to Lake Health EMS Director Dr. Howard Mell and his quest for 10,000 adults to learn how to administer hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation in a year?

It took 13 months instead of 12.

Although it took an extra month to reach the 10,000 mark, Mell said educators with emergency departments and the American Heart Association managed to teach the life-saving technique to 10,000 citizens in classes offered throughout Lake County.

"It's rare to see a notation on EMS reports saying that CPR was started before the emergency crew arrived on the scene, but we're seeing it more and more," Mell said.

In the last year, he said about half the people suffering from apparent heart failure received CPR from by-standers before Lake County emergency rescue crews arrived.

These are individuals who may have collapsed in the gym, the mall or at home, he said, and were helped by regular citizens.

Mell said the two-step technique is simple and effective and takes less than 30 minutes to learn. First call or have someone nearby call 9-1-1 and then push hard and fast in the center of the collapsed person's chest until help arrives.

With traditional CPR, rescuers first check for a pulse and determine if the victim's airway is clear. Then, 30 chest compressions are administered before the first of two mouth-to-mouth ventilations.

Mell said it adds up to crucial minutes with no blood flowing to vital organs; a victim's survival rate drops 10 percent for every minute CPR is delayed. Rescue breathing isn't needed initially because oxygen remains in a person's system even after a heart attack, Mell said. The priority is promoting blood flow.

The American Heart Association has recommended hands-only CPR for adults since 2008. There are two exceptions. Traditional CPR with rescue breathing should always be used for victims of drowning and choking as well as children and babies whose cardiac problems usually are preceded by respiratory distress.

Last year, Mell directed all of the first-responder emergency crews in Lake County under his direction to use hands-only CPR at the scene for victims of cardiac arrest.

The survival rate of people suffering heart attacks outside of a hospital who were initially cared for by Lake EMS doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent over the last year, Mell said. That's people who were in full cardiac arrest and then left the hospital able to fully function at home, he said.

Nationwide, fewer than 8 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive, according to the American Heart Association.

Mell said he isn't done yet. "The goal is to continue to teach hands-only CPR to as many people willing to learn it."

He's looking for another 10,000 this year for a very good reason.

"It's working," he said. "It's saving lives."

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