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Project Heart Start helps others save lives with CPR training

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Project Heart Start training

Up to 350,000 people die every year from cardiac arrest outside a hospital. It can happen at any time, anywhere, and to any person. That’s why knowing how to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is critical to saving lives. Dr. Barry Ramo spoke with KUNM about his program Project Heart Start which will be hosting a training and health fair on Saturday where people can learn hands-only CPR.

DR. BARRY RAMO: Our goal is to teach as many people in New Mexico as possible to learn how to save a life by learning the four components of Project Heartstart which are recognizing the signs of a heart attack, recognizing that someone has had a cardiac arrest, that's performing CPR and calling 911, using the automated external defibrillator, and also how to save a choking victim.

KUNM: What would you say is one of the biggest challenges for Project Heart Start?

RAMO: The biggest challenge is that a lot of people are afraid to do CPR. What they don't realize is learning CPR is very simple now. There was no rescue breathing, all you do is call 911 and pump on the center of the chest and ask for someone to get an AED, but a lot of people have the fear that they're going to have to do respiration, particularly in this type of COVID. But they don't. It's very simple and actually in Project Heartstart, we've trained now 130,000 people throughout the state of New Mexico.

The interesting thing about cardiac arrest is that it is one disease that is totally dependent on the public for a successful outcome. That means that without public support, fewer than 10% of the people who have an out of hospital cardiac arrest can survive. If CPR is administered properly, the double or triple mortality figures are reduced.

KUNM: Why is there a hesitation to help or get CPR training? 

RAMO: There's always an impediment to go and touch somebody else and they have to recognize that they do nothing, that's the worst thing they can do. The signs of a heart attack are not so clear. People think that they should be having crushing chest pain. But in fact, very often, particularly in women, the symptoms before a heart attack will be just profound with fatigue, all of a sudden, or sudden sweating or shortness of breath. Those are symptoms we want the public to recognize, and to act upon.

KUNM: What advice would you give a person if they found someone unconscious and not breathing? If they haven't taken the proper CPR training, what should they do?

RAMO: So what they do is they go up to the victim, and they put them on their back. If they're unconscious, they shake them and yell at them, shake and shout, 'Are you awake?' Once they determined that they're not awake, and you don't have to be 100% certain, but then you call 911. And then put your hands in the center of the chest one hand on top of the other, and compress at a rate of 100 to 120 beats a minute, that's about a depth of about two to two and a half inches. But you do it hard and fast. That's really the rule.

KUNM: What was one of the most memorable stories you heard of how CPR saved a life?

RAMO: A woman was in a dance class and she was going like crazy and suddenly she had a cardiac arrest and died. In the room there were virtually no other people are doing CPR except one for one person. And that one person called said, call 911. Get the AED and she began CPR. This patient was quickly resuscitated. They shocked her heart back into regular rhythm. And it turned out that the woman who did the CPR had taken our course at the annual project Heart Start event. But most importantly, was she her, she was the best friend of the lady with a cardiac arrest.

KUNM: What do you want people to take away from Project Heart Starts event?

RAMO: I'd like to see people leave confident that they know what to do if someone suddenly collapses in front of them so that they're not lost and they don't do anything.

Fifty percent of the people who have heart attacks die before they get to the hospital, because they call it something else, it is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack. So we spend a fair amount of time during the program explaining to people what the signs of a heart attack are.

The community person is the key person, not the medical system, the key person to keeping people alive after a sudden cardiac arrest.

At this time when we're so consumed by so many things. It's nice to know that you can do something that really helps other people.

The Project Heart Start Dayand health fair takes place June 18 with sessions at the top of each hour from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center in Albuquerque and in at Cabezon Community Center in Rio Rancho. No registration is required.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s a former Local News Fund Fellow. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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