Forget everything you thought you knew about CPR

Travis Fenel, a KCFD division chief, demonstrated to the city council how to do CPR without having to blow air into the victim’s mouth.

There is an easy way to do CPR but too few people know it and that is costing lives, experts told the city council public safety committee Wednesday.

The city fire department has applied for a $175,000 grant to spread knowledge of the CPR technique to Kansas City citizens and schools.

It involves using fast, hard chest compressions without blowing air into the mouth and studies show it is as effective as the old method.

But a disturbing study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that too many bystanders do not give any kind of CPR.  It also found that people who go into cardiac arrest in poor, black neighborhoods were only half as likely to get CPR from a bystander as those having cardiac arrest in middle-income or wealthier white neighborhood.

The problem seems to be that people don’t know what to do or are leery of blowing into the mouth of a dead person.

Overall in Kansas City, only about one in five people who suffer cardiac arrest get CPR from a bystander. Of those who do get it, 40 percent survive compared to about 11 percent for all cardiac arrests in the city.

Dr. Richard Gist, KCFD assistant to the chief, told council members that the grant could help spread knowledge that will save lives. It would pay for training equipment and allow firefighters to teach CPR more in the community and schools. It also would pay for things like an unusual smart phone app: the phone set on the victim’s chest would tell you if you are compressing fast enough and hard enough.

Travis Fenel, a KCFD division chief, used a dummy and machine to tell visiting high school students that as they did compressions in front of the council committee.

He introduced a student to the dummy. “This is Fred. Fred drops dead. What do you do?”

The correct answer: if two people are there, one should call 911 while the other starts compressions.

A student started on Fred, the machine beeping with each push. It was not fast enough or hard enough, the machine said, and the student adjusted.

“You’re saving a life right now,” Fenel said. “You’re pump starting Fred’s heart.”

The study last year also found that people were more likely to get bystander CPR in places like schools, factories or recreation facilities. But most cardiac arrests occurred in homes and victims there were no more likely to get CPR than people who dropped on the streets.

Fenel told another student: “This may be the only chance you get to practice before you use this skill to save someone you know.”

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