CPR helps beat the odds

Published 8:49 pm Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The chances of Brandy Futrell surviving her ordeal on Sunday morning were exceedingly slim. Struck by lightning as she was closing a gate after letting her dogs out, she had fallen to the ground. When her husband turned to find her there, she was not breathing, and she had no pulse.

In today’s era of mobile phones and near-universal connectivity, it’s not surprising that her husband was able to dial 911 immediately. What is surprising — or at least extremely unusual — is that he knew what to do while he awaited professional help. He began performing CPR, and by the time paramedics arrived, Brandy Futrell was awake and alert again.

In the vast majority of cases, she would not have survived the event. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that only 6.4 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive, because the vast majority of those witnessing the arrest are people who do not know how to perform CPR.

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When Brandy Futrell’s heart stopped, she for all intents and purposes became one of the 20 percent or so of lightning-strike victims who die immediately from the event. When her husband revived her with CPR, she joined an even smaller percentage of people fortunate enough to be brought back around by someone nearby.

In short, her chances of being struck by lightning were low, her chances of surviving that strike lower and her chances of being revived after suffering sudden cardiac arrest because of the strike even lower. But the training of one individual — in this case one who probably felt he had everything to lose if he couldn’t revive his wife — overcame all of those awful odds.

Most of the time, it’s not caused by lightning strikes, but sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 325,000 deaths each year, according to the Heart Rhythm Foundation. It is estimated that 95 percent of victims of cardiac arrest die before they reach a hospital or other source of emergency help. Many of those victims, like Brandy Futrell, would survive if someone nearby began CPR as soon as cardiac arrest happened.

Learn CPR. Someone loves the person you could save.