CPR turns 50; groups enlist Congress' support for SCA survival

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At least three dozen organizations took their birthday celebration for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which turns 50 years old this month, to Capitol Hill in an effort to enlist congressional help in taking action to reduce deaths from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

"Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States. We are raising awareness about sudden cardiac arrest to a volume that policymakers cannot ignore," said Alice Lara, chair of the SCA Coalition. "We believe that a few key actions taken by leaders across the country may help save the lives of future SCA victims."

The organizations, which included the Heart Rhythm Society, American Heart Association, Hypertropic Cardiomyopathy Association and the American Society of Echocardiography, specifically asked members of Congress to commit to three agenda items:

  • Join the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition and raise awareness of SCA;
  • Work to assure all high school graduates are trained in CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) life-saving skills; and
  • Fund research allowing scientists to chart a course for better SCA survival outcomes that includes consistent, accurate data collection across the U.S.

"It's been said before that you can't improve what you don't measure, and the same applies to sudden cardiac arrest," said Lance Becker, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, at the gathering.

"Until we bring the needed resources, research and national standards for data collection to the forefront, we won't know for sure what works, what doesn't and why. We can improve survival rates, and with the help of our policymakers, we can make a real, national impact on a major public health problem that hasn't changed in 30 years."

The SCA Coalition recognized Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, for her sponsorship of H.R. 1380, the Josh Miller HEARTS Act, which authorizes the department of education to provide funding to local schools for the purchase of AEDs and for AED/CPR training. The bill passed the House in June 2009.

Brian Buck, a 30-year-old SCA survivor, shared his story alongside Cheryl Victoria, who saved his life by using an AED on Buck as he lay unconscious on a soccer field. Buck regained a pulse and was taken to a hospital and treated with therapeutic hypothermia.

"There is not a day that goes by when I don't feel incredibly blessed to be alive and grateful for what Cheryl did to save my life," said Buck at the briefing. "I'm here today telling my story to help make sure other victims get the same second chance at life. My hope is that many more people would be trained in the use of AEDs and CPR and survival stories like mine would become much more prevalent."