Increasing sudden cardiac arrest survival rates through CPR education

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- The competition is on for two local fire departments as they try to increase the survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest by teaching hands-only CPR. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, emergency responders receive more than 320,000 sudden cardiac arrests calls across the country, every year.

Since he was just three years old, Greg Otten knew he wanted to become a firefighter.

"I want to help people," Greg said.

Now, as he's about to turn 12, Greg is taking advantage of every opportunity to get a head-start on his dream career. This Saturday, that meant participating in a CPR class.

Firefighters from both Wausau and Stevens Point, are about one month into a challenge to see who can train the most people in hands-only CPR.

"When you're doing chest compressions, you're circulating the blood through that person's body and providing the oxygen that like the brain and the heart and stuff need for a short term, until trained rescuers get there," Wausau Firefighter and Paramedic Travis Krueger said.

Krueger said conducting hands-only CPR can double or even triple a person's chances of survival.

The fire departments are also trying to make more people aware about AEDs or automated external defibrillators because you don't need a medical background to use one.

"When someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, the heart can be in an irregular rhythm and the AED, what that does, is stops the heart and hopefully the heart will reorganize itself, kind of like reboot it, and start it into a normal heart rhythm again," Krueger said.

Even though Greg has a long way to go, his dad, Brian said, if he does become a firefighter or EMT, the early practice will teach him to take quick action and to not be a bystander.

"He's got to have the training to back up those decisions and it all kind of starts here with learning CPR," Brian said. "Then I know what to do and try and help save their life," Greg added.

Both the Wausau and Stevens Point departments have a goal of training 500 residents. So far Wausau firefighters have trained 1,210 people and Stevens Point firefighters have trained 358 people. The challenge started on Feb. 8 and runs through March 31.