People walking in search of lunch at the Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta on Tuesday passed by about 10 plastic torsos laying on the ground, models of the human chest paramedics were using to teach the public about the importance of CPR in the first few minutes of a medical emergency.
During the lunch hour, there were lulls in the exercises, when people passed by more preoccupied with what to eat. But at most points, people were willing to jump in and practice compressions along with a teacher. By the end of the day, nearly 200 people were trained in Goleta, Buellton and Orcutt by Santa Barbara County Fire and American Medical Response paramedics.
Sudden cardiac arrest affects nearly 300,000 people across the country annually, and 300 people in Santa Barbara County each year.
Cardiac arrest is different than a heart attack, and occurs when there’s an electrical disorder of the heart, causing it to stop. Without blood flow, the brain stops working and the victim collapses.
Because less than 10 percent of people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive, Tuesday’s demonstrations were critical, according to Capt. Josh Cazier, who was watching over the event.
Cazier said he has seen cases where people saved lives doing compressions until medics have arrived.
“Our No. 1 goal is creating a situation where people can walk away from this” without permanent damage, he said.
Santa Barbara County firefighter/paramedic Alfred Gonzalez led the exercises with multiple people on Tuesday, including this reporter, teaching them where to put their hands for the chest compressions and to sing the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive,” which has roughly the beats per minute needed to do the compression exercises.
Keeping the blood circulating to the body, especially the heart and the brain, until first responders arrive is the most important thing.
The American Heart Association has recommended hands?only CPR for adults since 2008, eliminating the need for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Instead of having people sit through an eight-hour class, first responders were out giving people the “down and dirty” instructions to save someone’s life, Cazier said.
That four-minute window is crucial, and with every minute that passes by, a person’s risk of death or complications increases significantly.
Many large organizations are catching on and having the fire department do a training for their employees. The City of Solvang is gearing up in November to have its downtown businesses trained in CPR.
The fire department also tries to have a presence at large events such as the Lemon Festival to train people in hands-on CPR, he said.