Let’s talk about CPR

We tend to take safety very seriously in terms of policy and industry regulation in this country, so it would stand to reason that we could assume that Australia would have high rates of CPR training and AED availability in the community. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not the case.
Let’s compare Australia to the best performing city in the world in terms of survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Seattle has a 62% sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) survival rate – the survival rate is 12% in Australia, 5 times lower than Seattle. Why? Only 26% of the Australian population know how to carry out basic CPR, as compared to 75% of the community in Seattle. Additionally – and importantly – in Seattle defibrillators are widespread. You can find your nearest AED via your smart phone, and in an emergency a high proportion of the population is able to quickly locate and confidently use a defibrillator.
294 people drowned last year in Australia, many of whom may have been saved by the fast and effective application of CPR and defibrillation. Once a sudden cardiac arrest has occurred it takes only three minutes for brain damage to set in and within 10 minutes the person has usually died. In most cases the ambulance will not make it in time.

Approximately twenty seven thousand Australians have an out of hospital sudden cardiac arrest each year – only 12% survive. That’s approximately 24,000 deaths every year – more than sixteen times the deaths resulting from Covid during the pandemic. Fire extinguishers and smoke alarms are mandatory in all public buildings, regardless of the fact that smoke and fire kill less than 100 Australians per year. SCA is an ongoing public health crisis. Improving our SCA survival rate to match Seattle would save approximately 15,000 Australian lives per year – clearly, we need to do better.

Each of these statistics is someone’s family member. It became very personal for us last year when long time NSF employee Pauline Bentley, 77, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed in public. Mrs Bentley was revived by bystanders, but during the ambulance journey and upon arrival at the hospital Mrs Bentley again went into cardiac arrest, in total receiving six rounds of CPR in less than 24 hours. Following multiple surgeries Mrs Bentley went on to make a full recovery, however without early intervention the outcome would have been very different. The irony is that Mrs Bentley was already aware of the importance of CPR before her ordeal, having trained in CPR annually for more than twenty years.

The original Yellow Wiggle, Greg Page, founded “Heart Of The Nation” after suffering a heart attack whilst on stage in January 2020. Greg said “My life was saved because of bystanders who knew how to do CPR and the fact that there was an AED nearby when I went into cardiac arrest – and people knew where it was”. Heart of the Nation encourage all businesses with an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) to sign up to receive sticker signage to clearly display that there is an AED on the premises.

We run community courses monthly at Nepean Aquatic Centres and visit preschools and schools to demonstrate basic CPR techniques for children. Let’s work together as a community to improve our CPR and AED confidence. julie@nepeanswim.com.au