In a two month period, four people survived cardiac arrest in Alexandria thanks to the quick recognition and actions of members of the public, the life-saving care provided by the Alexandria Fire Department and Department of Emergency Communications, and the efforts of the staff at INOVA Alexandria Hospital. Their actions demonstrated the American Heart Association’s Chain of Survival which include:
- Immediate recognition of the emergency and activation of EMS
- Early CPR emphasizing chest compressions
- Rapid defibrillation
- Effective advanced life support
- Integrated post-cardiac arrest care
The bystanders, emergency dispatchers, Fire Department responders, and hospital staff all worked together to give these four men a chance to survive what is usually a fatal event.
On May 30th, a visitor from overseas collapsed at a bus stop in the Del Ray neighborhood. One witness, a nurse practitioner, found him to be in cardiac arrest and immediately began performing chest compressions. Another witness called 911. Within four minutes, several Fire Department vehicles arrived on scene. Paramedics and firefighters continued performing CPR and defibrillated the patient once. Several minutes later, they found that the patient had regained a pulse; he continued to show signs of improvement en route to the hospital. Several days later, he was able to walk out of the hospital and return to his home across the Atlantic.
A month later, Fire Department personnel responded to a theater in Old Town on June 30th for the report of a seizure. On arrival, they discovered a man in his mid-40s, unresponsive and with no pulse. After initiating CPR, paramedics defibrillated the patient. He regained a pulse and began breathing a few minutes later while being transported to the hospital. Two weeks later, he was discharged from Inova Alexandria Hospital with a new life vest capable of detecting and defibrillating life-threatening heart rhythms but also with no neurological deficits and the ability to resume a normal life.
On July 9th, an employee at a local restaurant told his colleagues that he was feeling sick and would probably go home early. Later that day, he collapsed in the kitchen. Another restaurant employee knew CPR but also knew that he had to call 911 immediately before starting chest compressions. A Fire Department battalion chief who was in the area heard the dispatch and immediately responded. He found a male in cardiac arrest and applied the AED and defibrillated the victim. Other firefighters arrived on scene to assist with CPR, and medics arrived two minutes later. They continued CPR and defibrillated the patient three additional times before he regained a pulse and then began breathing on his own; he was then rushed to INOVA Alexandria Hospital. He has recovered fully with no neurological deficits and should be leaving the hospital and returning home soon.
The next week, a construction worker at home in Del Ray collapsed in the backyard while working on a fence. His co-worker immediately called 911 and began CPR, following the instructions given to him on the phone by a Department of Emergency Communications dispatcher. The EMS supervisor arrived on the scene within minutes and attached a defibrillator. Firefighters then began CPR, and the patient was defibrillated twice before he regained a pulse and started breathing. He was transported to Inova Alexandria, where he remains sedated in critical but stable condition.
Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating, due to an electrical abnormality. While it is not the same as a heart attack, it is often caused by a heart attack. However, other causes—such as drugs, congenital abnormalities, and electrocutions—can also lead to sudden cardiac arrest. A victim of sudden cardiac arrest is clinically “dead”—they have no heart beat—but can be saved if a defibrillator is applied within a few minutes. Performing chest compressions immediately and until a defibrillator can be applied has been shown to double or triple a victim’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest.
The most important steps to saving a victim of cardiac arrest are:
- Recognizing the emergency and calling 911
- Performing CPR (chest compressions)
- Applying an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
The Alexandria Fire Department recognizes the efforts of the bystanders who helped save both strangers and friends by quickly calling 911 and performing CPR, the call-takers and dispatchers who calmly gathered the necessary information and dispatched help, the medics and firefighters who provided the medical care that brought these patients back to life, and the staff at INOVA Alexandria Hospital who continued that care and helped these patients recover and resume their lives.
Source: City of Alexandria