Valentine’s Day was a day to celebrate life for 22 sudden cardiac arrest survivors who beat the odds.
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue hosted an inaugural reunion breakfast Saturday at the Tualatin Country Club, where survivors and their families gathered with some of the people who took action to save their lives.
By bringing together survivors with citizens who performed CPR, 9-1-1 dispatchers, law enforcement officers who used automatic external defibrillators, emergency response paramedics and health professionals entrusted with their care, attendees had an opportunity to re-connect and thank those who took part in their chain of survival.
Stephen Simon of West Linn was one of the survivors who attended the breakfast.
“For my wife, step-son and I, it was really terrific to spend time with two of the four people who saved my life,” said Simon, who went into sudden cardiac arrest on Nov. 4, 2011. “Because of what happened three and a half years ago, my step-son Carter was inspired to become a firefighter and EMT. He is now 18 and in an explorer program to pursue this as a career.”
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews responded to more than 1,600 cardiac-related calls in 2014, representing 10 percent of the total patients treated. Although only 8 percent of those who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside a hospital survive, when a bystander performs hands-only CPR, the odds of survival can double or even triple.
That message hit home with the survivors who attended the event.
“It was very encouraging to see so many survivors in the same room,” Simon said.
Cardiac arrest survivor Helen Winberg of Metzger agreed. “It showed the reality that there were 22 people who would not be here today without the education, training, proper equipment and people willing to step up for each of us,” she added. “It affirms the importance of this whole program. We’re living proof that hands-only CPR and having a strong chain of survival works.”
During Saturday’s event, Winberg talked about going into sudden cardiac arrest in the Washington Square parking lot on April 4, 2013. Within seconds of her collapse, the wheels were set in motion that would ultimately save her life. One person called 9-1-1 to get help started, another notified mall security personnel who provided hands-only CPR and utilized an AED, TVF&R and Metro West Ambulance paramedics provided advanced life support, and she was transported to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center where the cardiac department was already aware and ready to provide her with state-of-the-art cardiac care.
Following her recovery, Winberg returned to Washington Square to share her story and support Valley Catholic students who volunteered their time to teach mall visitors hands-only CPR. During Saturday’s breakfast, Winberg encouraged other survivors to join her in the mission to educate others on how important it is to prepare for cardiac emergencies, whether that is talking to an employer about placing an AED in the building or encouraging loved ones to learn hands-only CPR.
“The more people aware of our success stories, the better off our community will be,” Winberg said.
According to the American Heart Association, every year, more than 300,000 people in the United States die from sudden cardiac arrest, many before ever reaching a hospital. When citizens are willing and able to provide early hands-only CPR and AEDs are readily available, the chances of a patient surviving a cardiac event are increased.
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