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Posted on: October 31, 2019

Celebrating the Gift of Life with Cardiac Arrest Survivors

Survivor Russell Prokopich with wife Reba and Responders

On Oct. 30, 12 survivors of cardiac arrest celebrated the gift of life alongside the bystanders, family members and first responders who saved their lives. It was a fitting tribute to mark the end of Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month.

The survivors ranged in age from 4 to 76 and their stories of survival were vastly different. But the common thread between all 12 saves was the collaborative efforts of the people who provided a seamless flow of emergency response, from the moment emergency care was needed until the incident was resolved.

This flow of response is referred to as the “Chain of Survival.” It begins when a bystander or family member calls 911 and initiates CPR. From there the chain moves to the 911 dispatchers who activate the emergency response system, to the police officers who arrive on-scene and start High Performance CPR, to the firefighter-paramedics who perform advanced emergency medical services, and finally to the healthcare professionals who provide advanced life support and post-cardiac arrest care.

“CPR saves lives and the sooner someone can begin CPR, the greater the likelihood of survival,” said Ed Raschein, EMS Specialist and Firefighter-Paramedic with Cosumnes Fire. “These stories are a testament to the many citizens and professionals who are involved in assisting our community member experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency.”

At the Oct. 30 event, each survivor addressed their rescuers with gratitude.

One such survivor was Russell, who experienced cardiac arrest and collapsed in his home last December. His wife simultaneously called 911 and began CPR. Emergency dispatchers sent response units and provided verbal assistance to Russell’s wife. Elk Grove Police was first on scene and continued CPR until fire personnel could arrive and transport Russell to a local hospital for treatment, including defibrillation.

“Cosumnes Fire boast among the highest survival rates from cardiac arrest in the region,” said Dr. Kevin Mackey, medical director for Cosumnes Fire Department. “But saving lives actually starts with our citizens because surviving cardiac arrest is only possible if CPR is started immediately.” 

For two years, Raschein and the Cosumnes Fire EMS Education Team has worked to strengthen the links in the “Chain of Survival” through on-going public education and training to first responders in the region, including local dispatchers, law enforcement, fire personnel and hospitals.

Training these regional partners increases the odds that the first person on the scene of a cardiac arrest can immediately activate High Performance CPR and significantly increase the odds of resuscitation and recovery.

There is evidence that it is working.

From 2017 to 2018, Cosumnes Fire saw the percentage rate of returned pulses double to 44%, law enforcement officers performed CPR on 30% of calls, and the bystander CPR rate was also 30%.

Cosumnes Fire will continue its CPR training program for first responders, including dispatchers, law enforcement officers, and receiving hospital healthcare professionals on December 5, when it conducts a Resuscitation Academy. The course will introduce these EMS leaders to “10 Steps to Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival,” including establishing a registry, telephone CPR, high performance CPR and more. 

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