Sudden cardiac arrest strikes without warning; the heart stops beating its regular rhythm and without rapid intervention the person dies.
More than 300,000 people die each year in the U.S. because they don’t get help in the first crucial minutes.
If more people were trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques that figure could be reduced, said Albuquerque cardiologist Dr. Barry Ramo
Santa Fe-based documentary filmmaker Patrick Bates, 65, knows that only too well.
One March evening in 2013, he walked into the kitchen where his wife, Faye Bates, was cooking supper and crumpled to the floor.
“He was white as a sheet. He was totally white, and not breathing normally,” Faye Bates said, “I instantly knew what was up.” Decades before, she had taken a CPR class and the training kicked in. She grabbed a cordless phone, dialled 911 to summon help, put the phone on speaker and began chest compressions even before the dispatcher answered. She was still pumping when first responders arrived several minutes later.
“The fact that I survived this is solely because of Faye,” Patrick Bates said.
If the heart stops pumping oxygen-rich blood to the brain and vital organs a person will die within 10 minutes if they don’t get CPR, Ramo said.
Ramo founded the nonprofit Project Heart Start eight years ago to provide simple training that could improve New Mexicans’ chance of survival. Since then, about 100,000 people have so far received the training through Project Heart Start, he said.
Patrick and Faye Bates have been involved in that effort through an educational video they made to help raise funds for the work of Project Heart Start.
On Saturday, June 17, the organization will hold its eighth annual Project Heart Start Day offering free hands-only CPR training classes at locations in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Los Lunas. Classes last about 45 minutes and start on the hour at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. at each location.
Participants will learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest or a heart attack, which is when part of the heart muscle is damaged often because of a blocked artery.
The training sessions will teach how and when to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), which shocks the heart to help restart the regular beating rhythm. Participants will also learn how to save a choking victim.
Registration is not required, people can just show up at any of the locations on June 17.
“We want people to bring their kids and the whole family,” Ramo said.