WAUSEON - You're at a family picnic when a relative - or even just a stranger nearby - suddenly collapses. What do you do?
According to Rod Cheney, Fulton County's director of emergency medical services, a sudden collapse almost always indicates a heart attack, and when those strike, time is precious - and fleeting.
At all seven of the county's firehouses, plus at the Life Flight medical helicopter hangar at Fulton County Airport near Wauseon, emergency-services personnel will offer free cardio-pulmonary resuscitation classes Oct. 10 in the morning, along with training on how to use automated external defibrillator devices that can jolt a misfiring heart back into rhythm.
County commissioner Paul Barnaby, who as a Metamora firefighter has been to four cardiac-arrest situations - three of them accidental drownings at Harrison Lake - hopes anybody with 60 minutes to spare turns out for Save a Life Saturday.
In each of those deaths, Mr. Barnaby said, relatives and bystanders did nothing until rescue crews arrived, and by then it was too late.
The hour-long classes will be offered at the top of each hour from 9 a.m. until noon at each of the eight locations.
There are 112 automatic external defibrillators stationed throughout the county, Mr. Cheney said, and they will not deliver a shock if a patient's heart is beating normally.
"It will not allow you to shock unless it has detected ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardic rhythm," he said. The former is essentially an erratic, quivering heartbeat while the latter is a dangerously fast beat.
But the chance of cardiac arrest after a sudden collapse is so high, Mr. Cheney said, that if the defibrillator gives a "no shock advised" message, the victim is probably dead already.
The cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training will teach participants how to give proper chest compressions, using realistic dummies. The proper rate, Mr. Cheney said, is about 100 compressions per minute in two-minute cycles.
"It's been suggested that if you break some ribs, you're pressing deep enough," he said.
Dr. Harry Murtiff, the county coroner, warned that the pressure has to be applied in the right place.
"If you go below the sternum, you're probably doing more harm than good," he said, noting that the main purpose of CPR is to keep blood circulating, even if the heart doesn't start beating on its own.
"But if the body just lies there, your chance of survival decreases 7 to 10 percent every minute," Mr. Cheney said.
Fulton County has a great Advanced Life Saving system, but the public needs to get involved and give heart-attack victims a chance to survive long enough for help to arrive, the EMS director said.
"There's always that 'what-if' otherwise," he said. "What if a bystander giving CPR had made a difference?"
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