Jackson's death spurs reminder about need for cardiac training


POSTED: Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson's death yesterday from cardiac arrest prompted the American Heart Association to urge the public to be prepared for cardiac emergencies.

“;Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time,”; said Pam Foster, a registered nurse and heart association trainer in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillation, which restores normal heart rhythm in cardiac arrest.

“;Statistically, it happens 1,000 times a day in our country,”; said Foster, owner of the AED Institute. “;Unfortunately, the only time it comes to public knowledge is when it's a celebrity,”; she said, such as Tim Russert, NBC News' Washington bureau chief and “;Meet the Press”; moderator, who had died after cardiac arrest at work a year ago, and now Jackson.

Cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function, says the AHA. A heart attack is different, occurring when the blood supply is blocked to part of the heart muscle. Among the many possible causes are heart disease, drugs, blood loss, electrocution, a lack of oxygen or blunt force trauma.

Treatment, whether from a bystander, emergency medical services or the hospital, is usually the same, Foster said, advising people to call 911, start CPR and use a defibrillator if one is available. “;Every minute that passes (without treatment) there's 10 percent less chance a person is going to survive.”;

Foster said 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home, at a workplace or somewhere people normally frequent. “;But the survival rate still is only 4 to 6 percent because people don't know what to do.”;

The heart association since 2005 has strongly promoted bystander action, she said. After calling 911, start pushing on the chest to the beat of the Bee Gees' “;Stayin' Alive,”; a technique discovered by Dr. Alson Inaba, pediatric emergency specialist at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

Honolulu Airport went from a cardiac survival rate of 1 percent 20 years ago to 80 percent within three years of a CPR/AED program, Foster said. Defibrillators also have been distributed in malls, government offices, schools and many other places, including restaurants, and the cabinets are never locked, Foster pointed out. “;Retrieve the AED, turn on the button and it talks to you and tells you exactly what to do.”;

Brian Eatmon's life was saved after a cardiac arrest in the kitchen at a restaurant about a year ago by the fast action of co-worker Erin Boland, a nursing student. She started CPR, asked the manager to get an AED nearby in the mall, and hooked Eatmon to it. Eatmon is now a CPR instructor for the heart association.