STAMFORD -- While setting a new world record for a mass CPR training would be great, the most important goal of the upcoming Hands for Life event will be to encourage people to help heart attack victims rather than do nothing, said Dr. Thomas Nero, a staff cardiologist at Stamford Hospital.
Considerable information shows that chest compressions administered by bystanders without training in CPR is better than no intervention at all for those suffering cardiac arrest, Nero told a group of volunteer CPR instructors being prepared for Saturday's Hands for Life event at Chelsea Piers.
In Stamford, only about 25 percent of victims of cardiac arrest receive bystander CPR to keep their blood circulating in the minutes after their heart stops, Nero said, a percentage he'd like to see increase dramatically.
"We really believe by doing this big thing people will realize this is a thing we can do and should do and nothing is going to limit them," Nero said.
Nero spoke to a room of about 30 medical professionals and others Wednesday night to train volunteers who will teach hands-only CPR to droves of people during Saturday's Hands for Life Stamford 2012 which will take place at Chelsea Piers Connecticut on Blachley Road.
The underlying goal of the event to be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday will be to set a world record and train 10,000 people in the technique of hands-only CPR in one day. The current record was set in January 2011 by the Singapore Heart Association which trained 7,909 people in one day.
City Director of Health and Social Services Anne Fountain also presented state Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, with the first Hands for Life Outstanding Community Service Award for his role in amending the state's Good Samaritan laws to extend immunity from liability to any person operating an automatic electronic defibrillator in an effort to save a heart attack victim's life.
While expanding protection for bystanders, the law does not exempt first responderrs such as firefighters, police, and emergency medical technicians from maintaining training in CPR and operating automatic electronic defibrillators to the standards set by the American Heart Association.
"His support for the law epitomizes the spirit behind the law... providing protection from liability to encourage the general public to step up and provide life-saving CPR and defibrillation with confidence," Fountain said.
Fox said that over the past several years the gradual change to the law has made it less legally perilous for those who know CPR to help cardiac arrest victims.
"What we've done over the past several years in the legislature has hopefully made it clear that when you are trained we want you to feel comfortable to step in and help without fear of liability," Fox said.
Even with nearly 200 trainers already registered to provide instruction, organizers are still seeking additional volunteers to help surpass the record, said Perry Burgess, the nurse manager of Stamford Hospital's Cardiac Catheterization clinic. Instructors need to have current training in CPR and hold a professional medical credential including doctor, physician's assistant, registered nurse, paramedic, emergency medical technician, licensed practical nurse, nurse practitioner, military corpsman, or first responder such as firefighters or police officers.
"We need a lot of people because it is a very long day in which people will need breaks and to eat and do other things," Burgess said.
Nero told the volunteer trainers that he expected it to take about 15 to 20 minutes to train a group of 100 people in the simplified technique, which does not require mouth to mouth contact and breaths.
The technique has been seen to double the survival rate of heart attack victims who suffer cardiac arrest if begun immediately afterwards, Nero said.
The 15-minute training sessions will teach the basics of the hands-only CPR technique are the three c's of check, call and compress, Nero said.
Nero said that if a heart attack victim is not breathing or unresponsive, the next step should be to call 911.
Nero said that an individual administering CPR should apply 100 compressions per minute, positioning their hands on the breast bone and pushing hard and fast to the center of the chest pressure to help maintain blood flow throughout the body.
"The CPR should continue until an AED arrives or becomes available," Nero said.
Chris Mira, a Stamford native, credited the quick action of his wife Michele and friends with saving his life during two heart attacks in February 2011.
In February 2011, his wife recognized the signs of a heart attack after Mira returned from a walk and called 911 immediately. Emergency medical technicians administered CPR to him en route to the hospital after he went into cardiac arrest.
Two days later, two friends performed CPR on him at his home after a second heart attack stopped his heart, reviving him a second time, he said.
"I died both times and I don't think I would be here if it wasn't for the quick use of CPR to revive me," Mira said. "I believe very strongly that this is very important."
With more than 2,500 individuals already registered to be trained, the event requires the use of off-site parking at Stamford High School's lot on Hillandale Avenue and at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church at 566 Elm St. Shuttle buses will run all day to and from both sites, according to officials.
Nero said he hoped the event would also give impetus to some residents to pursue full certification in CPR technique from the American Heart Association, Stamford Emergency Medical Services, or another agency offering instruction.
"The key for us is we need to get most of the lay population that won't do mouth to mouth at all to do something and if we can get them to do compressions we're way ahead of the game," Nero said. "But we don't want to make them think this is certification, we think everyone should get a full training but this should be the thin edge of the wedge."
For more information on the event visit www.handsforlife.org.
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