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Howard Lake man is living proof of hands-only CPR success
Aug. 16, 2010
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By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN – No one has to convince Donnie Drusch of Howard Lake that hands-only CPR is a lifesaver.

“That’s the reason I’m standing here today,” he said.

Statistically speaking, Drusch shouldn’t have survived when his heart stopped beating last spring.

“Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) affects 300,000 people each year, and the chances of survival are dismal,” according to Charles Lick, MD, emergency medical director for Allina and Buffalo hospitals.

Unless victims are provided with adequate aid in a timely fashion – ideally CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and a shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED) in the first three to five minutes – SCA is 100 percent fatal.

However, the average response time for paramedics is eight to 10 minutes, a Wright County Public Health news release stated.

Thankfully, in Drusch’s case, help was not far away.

“I was fertilizing my yard,” he recalled. Drusch, who lives near St. James Lutheran School in Howard Lake, said that a group of students was outside near the tennis courts at the time.

Two teachers saw Drusch go into cardiac arrest.

“The girls who called it in said I went backwards and then fell forward on my head,” he said.

As for his own memory of the experience, Drusch said, “I don’t remember a thing.”

Drusch’s grandson, Jacob Drusch, remembers the incident quite well, however.

Jacob, who is on the Howard Lake Fire Department, was on his way to a different call when he heard that a man had collapsed.

“We didn’t really know what was going on at first,” he said. Because this situation was more urgent than the original call, the fire department went straight to Drusch’s house.

“We zipped across town, and we were there in 30 seconds,” Jacob said. “We transferred the other call to Cokato Ambulance.”

Jacob performed hands-only CPR for a little while on his grandfather, but Drusch’s nephew, Pete Drusch, was the main rescue person. Pete is also a member of the Howard Lake Fire Department.

“We credit him with cracking a few of my ribs,” Drusch said with a grin.

Drusch said he is extremely thankful to be alive today.

“The good Lord and these guys are responsible for that,” he said.

Drusch said he feels it is vitally important to support local emergency services.

“When they have raffles to buy new equipment, get out there and help them,” he said.

Wright County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is currently working with Take Heart Minnesota of Wright County to teach 10 percent of Wright County residents how to do CPR.

At the Wright County Fair this year, Lick and Kevin Sipprell (medical director of Ridgeview Ambulance and Howard Lake Ambulance) demonstrated the technique, and answered questions from the audience.

“The more we can get the message out, the better,” Sipprell said. “We’re more likely to save some lives.”

Lick stressed the importance of three actions people should take if someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest.

“First, call 911. Then, start CPR. And third, find an AED, if possible,” Lick said. An AED is a simple-to-use device that can restart the rhythm of the heart.

“When you turn it on, a voice comes on, telling you what to do,” Lick said. Nearly 70 AEDs have been placed in or around Wright County, according to Allina Hospital.

In Howard Lake, AEDs are in several spots, including the fire department, police department, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, HLWW Middle School, and St. James Lutheran School/Church, among other locations.

CPR is performed by pushing down with two hands on the patient’s chest, in between their nipples. Pressure should be applied firmly and quickly, in order to keep blood flowing throughout the body.

“CPR has gotten really easy,” Lick said. “If you can push down hard and fast – 100 times per minute – you can do it.”

In order to get the timing right, Lick suggested pressing down to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”

Hands-only CPR (without rescue breathing) is easier to remember and results in a greater number of chest compressions, with fewer interruptions.

“This is a good skill for all of us to learn,” Lick said. If a person has gone into cardiac arrest, CPR should be performed immediately and continuously until the ambulance arrives.

“In the two communities where we’ve implemented this, we’ve been able to greatly improve the chances of survival,” Lick said, explaining that survival rates in the City of St. Cloud and Anoka County went from 8.5 percent to 19 percent.

During the Wright County Fair presentation, many people had questions relating to CPR.

“What should be done if the person starts breathing?” someone asked.

Sometimes a person in cardiac arrest will start to breath with a snoring sound, Lick said.

“That’s not normal breathing,” he said. “They’re still in cardiac arrest. If you’re unsure, keep doing CPR. You can’t hurt someone worse by doing it.”

A mother asked what do if the victim is a child.

“Fortunately, kids very rarely go into cardiac arrest,” Lick said. Most of the time when children need CPR, it is because of a blocked airway, and rescue breathing can still be done.

Another person asked about drowning victims. Lick said in that case, it is beneficial to do conventional CPR, but if a person is uncomfortable with it or unsure what to do, hands-only CPR is still better than nothing.

When an audience member asked where CPR should be performed, Lick said that a firm surface is best, because it makes chest compressions more effective.

One man asked what to do if the victim recently had open-heart surgery.

“Even if they’ve had their breastbone cut and bound together with wire, the chest compressions shouldn’t hurt it,” Lick said. “If you don’t do it, it’s a higher chance they will die. You can’t screw up by doing this.”

Wright County EMS is joining Take Heart America to improve SCA survival rates in Wright County through AED distribution and CPR training.

For more information about Take Heart America, go to www.takeheartminnesota.org.

“Help us save some lives in Wright County,” Lick said.

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