CPR is a “pretend therapy” says Dr. Gust Bardy (http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649250.html), founding president of Seattle institute for Cardiovascular Research. He explains further saying that survival rates do not correlate with the 40 years of experience the nation has had in practicing CPR. He points out that we would not accept such a therapy for breast cancer-so why for CPR?
I disagree, and yet I see his point. Cardiac Arrest victims who receive CPR have a higher survival rate than those who do not. Granted, it is a small increase, but it is still there. Like Dr. Bardy, I want to see a more effective treatment developed. I agree with Dr. Bardy that AEDs are more effective-but it is important to remember that AEDs are used with CPR, not exclusive of them.
So why is it so hard to see any increase in CPR effectiveness and public implementation? The answer is Money. Money, Money, Money.
In 2003, the American Cancer Society spent $100 million on Breast Cancer Research (per ACS). According to Time Magazine, only $578,000 is spent on Heart Disease Research. That is nearly 200% more money spent on Breast Cancer.
Lets talk deaths. In 2007, 40,460 American women died from Breast Cancer (per ACS-they do not show a statistic for men). Compare this to 250,000 American men and women died from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. That is 6 SCA deaths for every 1 Breast Cancer death. Yet, we do not spend 6 times more money on preventing, treating, researching, diagnosing Heart Disease.
Not many people know CPR. Few, if any, actually receive training in CPR. However, everyone knows about Breast Cancer. There is no liabilty is knowing that Breast Cancer exists and can be treated with chemo. There is also no liabilty in knowing CPR. Yet, many of my students truly believe that they can be in legal trouble if they know CPR and do it wrong. The Good Samaratin Law protects everyone, but few people know about it. Let’s educate the public so that people know the risks and benefits. (More on this in a subsequent post).
Why is there such a disparity?
Breast Cancer involves saving the Ta-Ta’s! Everyone can see a breast and can see it’s loss. We can see a cancer patient lose hair and lose tissue.
We don’t see our Hearts’ failing. An SCA survivor comes out of the hospital looking basically the same. The hair is still there, the breasts are still there. They may have a new scar-but otherwise show little if any outward sign of being a survivor.
By contrast-the Pink Warriors are everywhere-walking, cheering, beating the Breast Cancer war-cry drums. This call makes men hug their wives and women hug their sisters, mothers and daughters. Everyone feels so noble. Look at me-I supported saving the woman in my life-I am important. (People forget that men get Breast Cancer too-it is a dirty little secret no one like to admit). Pink stand mixers, Pink cars, Pink ribbons, Pink bears, Pink balloons, Pink cotton swabs. You can’t buy anything pink anymore without the assumption that you have given money to Breast Cancer research.
Heart Disease gets “Go Red for Women” on February 4th. I can’t buy a Red stand mixer and give 10% to research. I would like to.
Let’s start beating the Heart Disease drum. Sure, it’s not as sexy as breasts, but much more vital. Without a beating Heart, the person dies and the breasts will decompose-not so sexy now are they. Perhaps, if Americans put as much money into Heart Disease as Breast Cancer, we could turn CPR into a more effective therapy. Perhaps, if more people know CPR, the SCA victim would not be waiting 9-12 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and thus, survival rates would be even better.
I begin each of my CPR classes telling my students that the odds are against them. I do not fill them with false hope-instead I give a realistic expectation. 99% of them thank me for the honesty. Recently, I was able to relieve a student of 10 years of guilt. She honestly believed that had she been with her brother when he died of SCA while jogging and if she had an AED-he would have lived. Being able to tell her that, no, even with everything going right-the odds are stacked against, gave her such a sense of relief she said she felt lighter than she ever had before.
I am in this business to save lives. Whether the life is saved by a Pink Bear or a Red Bear. I don’t care! I celebrate every life saved and mourn every life lost. We are effectively treating Breast Cancer (a more than 90% survival rate for early diagnosis). Let’s begin to effectively treat Heart Disease.
Please-spend more money on SCA. Please make CPR training and education a part of life-not a thing to be avoided. Please-I want to be able to tell my students that we have the answer. It is not hopeless-but we could do better if we only tried.