CPR app saves lives

By Trishala Bhagat, Staff Writer

This time of year, many people tend to focus on hearts. Candy hearts, chocolate hearts and paper hearts are on display on store shelves and websites everywhere. But, there is an app which is trying to make people focus on another type of heart: the real, beating human kind.

During a cardiac arrest, survival time decreases by 10 percent with each passing minute. Luckily, there are different technological initiatives being instituted to prepare for these situations.

PulsePoint is a free app which notifies community members of sudden cardiac arrests with the hopes that survival chances will increase through certified bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). PulsePoint is available in just over 3,500 communities in the U.S. and Canada.

Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time, not just older citizens. A heart attack doesn’t need to occur for a person to go into cardiac arrest, which is when the rhythm of one’s heart not performing normally.

Jennipher Wilson, EMT of 25 years and president of Vital Education and Supply – where people can be CPR, AED certified or First Aid certified in the workplace — addressed how cardiac arrest can affect college students.

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“People have underlying genetic conditions they are unaware of,” she said. “Students are also away from home and stressing their hearts which can put them into sudden cardiac arrest which breaks the idea that it only happens to people that are old.”

PulsePoint Respond focuses on those in need of CPR. If a cardiac emergency is in a public place, someone within a half-mile to 1 mile radius can use the app to see who is registered as CPR certified or someone certified can receive a notification to help those in trouble. It also directs people to the location of the closest AED to increase the likelihood of survival for the sudden cardiac arrest victim.

The dispatch system through PulsePoint alerts CPR-trained bystanders as well as off-duty professionals, such as firefighters, police officers and nurses, about nearby sudden cardiac arrests.

Nathan Cornwell, President of Illini Emergency Medical Services (IEMS), explains how on-site administered CPR can save someone’s life.

“There are nearly 350,000 cardiac arrests in America per year and according to the American Heart Association, the survival rate for cardiac arrests is 12 percent,” he said. “But if bystander CPR was conducted, it would increase to 46 percent. It makes a huge difference if CPR is initiated before paramedics arrive. The 6 to 10 minutes for the response time of an ambulance can be okay, but seconds count for things like CPR deaths which makes the PulsePoint app critical.”

PulsePoint AED allows people to report and update AED locations so they can be located when a cardiac emergency happens and strengthen the chain of survival.

“When someone suffers from cardiac arrest, the chain of survival is increased through quick bystander intervention,” Cornwall said. “It’s still a relatively new system, but EMTs are pushing for this to increase the likelihood of survival especially in things like cardiac arrests where early intervention is so important and activating bystanders in critical.”

Public AEDs aren’t used often because people are unaware of their locations. By having accurate AED information on Pulsepoint, bystanders helping those in need are able to locate AEDs and increase the chance of survival.

Kabir Thombre, a junior in LAS, IEMS safety officer and EMT-B, has worked with the app directly.

“We are one of the student-run, student-led emergency medical services agencies,” he said. “We work with PulsePoint by locating all the AEDs on campus, map them into the app and restore (or) refurbish any old AEDs on campus.”

Currently, about five percent of students on campus are trained, which is about 2,500 students total. The University is nationally recognized as a heart safe campus due to the number of students who have certifications. According to Cornwell, the app is definitely an advantage to students and the larger C-U community.

Shannon Smith, vice president of communications at PulsePoint, addresses misconceptions about CPR and says the app can foster community engagement.

“PulsePoint allows people to see how easy it is to learn CPR, and the American Heart Association actually recommends hands-only CPR, so I think many people got tripped up on mouth to mouth,” she said. “You can keep someone’s heart beating, keep them alive, with simple two-handed compressions into the chest.”

Those who have the PulsePoint respond app and local emergency responders get updated about AEDs nearby. Citizens, responders and dispatchers can work together in their communities to help victims in a cardiac emergency.

Smith says PulsePoint makes communities more aware of AEDs. Many people have the conception that they are for professional use only, but PulsePoint invites everyday people to utilize the app which is why they have strived to make it user-friendly.

PulsePoint also notifies citizens of other emergencies and natural disasters as they’re happening, including traffic accidents, wildfires and floods.

Wilson is glad to see the app spreading CPR awareness in the student population, hopefully encouraging more to seek certification.

“The app gets people to think about CPR again because a large portion of the population isn’t CPR trained,” she said. “A lot of students are coming from other countries where CPR is foreign to them; they typically enjoy the class the most because they are given the power to save a life and are included in the community. To pass that knowledge on to people is great for me.”

Places on campus like Illini EMS or Carle Foundation Hospital have CPR training programs in addition to online classes, and programs through the American Red Cross and American Heart Association. Someone could receive their certification in as little as two hours.

Nearly 70 percent of cardiac arrests that don’t occur in hospitals happen in private residences. Verified responders can use the app to be notified of private households that students may not have access to.

Two years ago, PulsePoint started piloting a new program called verified responder, which takes firefighters, or vetted professionals, and gives them a professional version of PulsePoint Respond that allows them to be activated off-duty for in-home private cardiac arrests.

Smith believes socially active students can see CPR certification as a service to the greater community.

“Students are the next generation,” she said. “They are familiar with smartphones, comfortable with apps; it’s almost second nature to have a phone, use GPS locator software, use apps and feel comfortable doing so. I feel this upcoming generation is very civically minded. They want to make the world a better place and help each other, and PulsePoint makes it such a simple thing to do.”

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