If you can pump your hands in an animated manner to the beat of the springy music “Stayin’ Alive,” you just might be able to save a life when the time comes.
“Stayin’ Alive” was a signature disco song written and performed by the Bee Gees from the “Saturday Night Fever” motion picture soundtrack. It was that bouncy song John Travolta was gracefully swinging his bell-bottomed pants to during the opening part of the movie.
It just might be the perfect tune to remember when you have to do a hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on someone who has just gone into cardio-respiratory arrest outside the hospital. Its tune has 100 beats a minute, which is the same number of chest compressions one must do on a person who has just gone into CP arrest.
For the longest time, cardiovascular causes remain the leading cause of deaths in our country and many parts of the world. One out of three deaths is due to a CV cause which includes coronary artery disease, heart failure, fatal arrhythmias, as well as strokes and other vascular causes.
If we look at heart diseases alone, the stats are still alarming—one out of five deaths is due to heart causes, based on figures coming from the Department of Health. Experts also estimate that around eight to 11 Filipinos suffer from cardiac arrest every hour. A big number of them may have this fatal event in the church, mall, market, bus station or on the street while walking.
The usual reaction of bystanders is to just wait for the ambulance to arrive, but by the time expert assistance arrives, there is already irreversible brain damage and although the heart may be defibrillated back to a normal rhythm, the patient may theoretically survive but will remain in a vegetative state the rest of his or her life.
Every minute that a CPR is delayed reduces the chances of survival and recovery by 10 percent. If it’s delayed by five minutes, a 50-percent chance of recovery shall have gone down the drain. If it’s delayed by more than 10 minutes, the prospect of recovery is nil.
Around two years ago, a very close friend of mine, Eduardo “Ed” Alvarez, went into a CP arrest after sneezing hard. The sneeze likely triggered a fatal arrhythmia in his heart which underwent bypass surgery for clogged arteries five years earlier.
This happened in a high-end supermarket in Makati, and there was no one among the hundreds of supermarket or mall staff who knew how to do basic CPR. Bystanders were quick enough to call for help, but none apparently was knowledgeable or confident enough to do basic CPR on Ed.
One can’t help but wonder that had someone from all the people who were there known the very simple, hands-only CPR, Ed would probably still be around today. He was one of the nicest and most generous persons I’ve ever known. He spent practically all his free time engaging in socio-civic activities with his colleagues at Rotary Club, where he was one of a few Filipinos occupying a high international position.
Perhaps, it would be a good idea for Rotary Club International to collaborate with the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) in their nationwide CPR Awareness campaign. They can do it in Ed’s memory, so other people who experience CP arrest may still be given a fighting chance to survive it. They can even call the project Stayin’ Alive because Ed has also helped many indigent patients with various ailments stay alive by assisting them with their medical care.
We fully support PHA’s vision to make every Filipino, even children and adolescents, knowledgeable on basic hands-only CPR. Kudos to the whole PHA Board, currently headed by Dr. Jorge Sison. Kudos also to the champions of this campaign immediate past president Dr. Raul Lapitan, and chair of the Council on CPR Dr. Francis Lavapie.
The PHA has been going around the country, conducting CPR workshops in offices, villages and even schools.
Their vision, called “CPR-Ready Philippines,” is that by 2021, every adult Filipino, and children who are physically able enough to do CPR, will be competent in rendering basic, hands-only CPR on anyone.
Dr. Lavapie pictures the following scenario: It’s 2021. In one busy street in Manila, an old woman suddenly collapses and falls to the ground under the scorching heat of the sun. A man who sees what happens quickly comes to the rescue.
He taps her. “Hey, are you okay?” No response.
He then checks her breathing. Nothing. Must be sudden cardiac arrest, he thinks.
Another bystander calls for emergency response. The man then administers chest compressions on the unconscious woman. For minutes he does this, checking her breathing every now and then until the ambulance arrives.
Suddenly, the woman begins breathing again. He turns her in a recovering position. She’s alive!
The “CPR-Ready Philippines” campaign was actually conceived after basketball legend Samboy “Skywalker” Lim went into CP arrest during a “Legends game” in 2014. He was just a few blocks away from a modern tertiary hospital but because it took several minutes before the ambulance could arrive, there was already severe irreversible damage on the brain and other vital organs of the body.
Popular basketball coach and Rep. Yeng Guiao, filed a bill in Congress called “BLS (Basic Life Support) Training in Schools Act” or “Samboy Lim Bill,” requiring education of students on basic CPR. The PHA helped lobby for it in Congress and Senate through a nationwide campaign for CPR awareness.
In its first CPR awareness nationwide campaign in 2016, the PHA trained over 23,000 children and adults on hands-only CPR.
The different PHA chapters in the provinces continued the training, in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Red Cross and American Heart Association (AHA) regional centers.
Encouraged by the potential for this campaign to save thousands of lives yearly, PHA went a step further by bringing the campaign to the grassroots level, training barangay health workers and equipping them to pass on their acquired knowledge and skills on basic CPR to other members of the community.
Specific groups of people—lifeguards, tourism personnel, hotel and resorts staff—are also currently given hands-only CPR training so they can also teach other people.
“So far, the ‘CPR Ready Philippines’ campaign has come a long way and is currently continuously spreading the training, now involving many private institutions, and government agencies,” Dr. Lavapie says. Public and private schools are also now preparing for the full implementation of the Samboy Lim Law.
Since its launch, around 65,000 persons have been trained, all of whom are expected to train other people also. If even just one-fourth of them would train 20 others each every year, who would in turn train 20 each, then by 2021, practically every Filipino would already be knowledgeable and competent in doing basic CPR.
Indeed, what a wonderful vision it is — to have a nation of lifesavers.