Maureen Legg, Co-Executive Director, Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation
Over 1,000 San Diego students and counting have used a new learning module called Smart Hearts Don’t Miss A Beat to join the next generation of life savers who will prevent sudden cardiac arrest from claiming more lives.
Sudden cardiac arrest happens when an electrical or structural abnormality abruptly stops the heart and the victim suddenly collapses and stops breathing. The abnormality can be something you’re born with, and possibly inherited, or it could develop as you grow.
According to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death of student athletes, with 1 in 300 youth having an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk.
The Smart Hearts curriculum was developed by the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation with a task force of educators from multiple San Diego County school districts and was trialed by health pathway students across the county. The initiative focuses on creating a culture of prevention at a young age in order to have a positive effect on the health and safety of participants and their future families, workplaces, and communities.
According to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, up to 72% of youth stricken by sudden cardiac arrest have warning signs such as fatigue, lightheadedness, chest discomfort, irregular heart beat, or shortness of breath that went unrecognized by parents, coaches, and medical practitioners because of the dangerously low awareness of what sudden cardiac arrest is and what causes it.
Once sudden cardiac arrest strikes, the survival rate is a mere 10%.
This rate can be improved if bystanders do the following within the first few minutes of arrest:
Call – Call 911
Push – Deliver hands-only Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by pushing hard and fast on the center of the chest
Shock—Use the nearest automated external defibrillator, or AED.
The Journal of American Medical Association Surgery reported that the vast majority of victims do not receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation or a shock from an automated external defibrillator prior to emergency services arrival, which averages six to 12 minutes. That’s why the survival rate is so low.
A series of videos and corresponding activities teach students about what sudden cardiac arrest is; how to recognize warning signs and family risk factors and be their own heart health advocate; and what to do in a cardiac emergency.
• taking a cardiac risk assessment,
• creating a family heart health tree,
• making a save-a-life video,
• finding and reporting on the accessibility of community automated external defibrillators, and
• taking a sudden cardiac arrest awareness poll of family and friends.
Here’s what student participants had to say about the program:
“Throughout this course I would definitely say the most important thing I learned was how to recognize symptoms, especially coming from a family that has had heart conditions.”
“The most important thing I learned from this training is that we need to educate people on these skills. We don’t have to be certified doctors to possibly save a life. Anyone can learn CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator.”
“This is one of the most beneficial and educational programs that I experienced. It offers life-long skills that are needed among more youth.”
Pre- and post-quiz scores showed a huge improvement in knowledge from 45% to 82%.
The Smart Hearts curriculum is free and available at epsavealife.org. Smart Hearts is also a Community Partner Patch Program with Girl Scouts San Diego.
To learn more about Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation events and resources visit https://epsavealife.org/.
Another resource is San Diego County Pulse Point!
Someone collapses nearby you at the gym, the store or even at work. They are showing the classic signs of sudden cardiac arrest: no heartbeat, no breathing. What do you do? How can you help?
Finding and deploying an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can help save a life in those critical minutes before a paramedic arrives. In fact, you’re twice as likely to survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest if you receive both cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator assistance, compared to cardiopulmonary resuscitation alone.
The PulsePoint AED app notifies nearby responders of a cardiac emergency through a ‘CPR needed’ alert, providing a map of the emergency’s location, and identifying nearby approved automated external defibrillators.
San Diego County has used the PulsePoint AED app to build one of the most comprehensive and model automated external defibrillators registries in the country.