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Telephone CPR: A New Weapon in the Fight against Heart Disease

CPR can nearly triple the odds of person surviving cardiac arrest. (American Heart Association)
CPR can nearly triple the odds of person surviving cardiac arrest. (American Heart Association)
February 1, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. – February is American Heart Month, and there's an effort to bring a new weapon to Minnesota in the fight against heart disease.

About 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital, and the chances of survival without cardiopulmonary resuscitation are less than 10 percent. Bystander CPR can nearly triple the survival rate, which Minnesota fitness blogger Lindsey Bomgren learned firsthand.

During a visit, Bomgren explains that her mother collapsed and was turning blue. She quickly started CPR and dialed 911.

"The 911 dispatcher continued to coach me through it on the phone, which was crucial to basically saving my mom's life,” says Bomgren. “It was the longest six minutes of my life while I was performing CPR. To just sit there and do nothing, I'd feel helpless. At least I felt like I was doing something."

Bomgren says they were lucky, because not all 911 dispatchers are trained to coach CPR over the phone. Now, health organizations have partnered with 911 call centers across the state to get a bill introduced this session that would create a standard telephone CPR protocol for 911 dispatcher training or transfer.

At the Minnesota Resuscitation Consortium, Program Manager Kim Harkins explains in the event of a cardiac-arrest call, 911 operators could provide CPR coaching, or quickly transfer calls to someone else who can assist. And she says the training would be integrated into their work.

"911 dispatchers are clearly trained in so many things,” says Harkins. “We're talking about a very talented group of people who this would just supplement what they're already doing, or take what they're already doing well and give them additional tips on coaching people to do CPR, so that we can minimize the time to get hands on chest."

While she is actually certified in CPR, Bomgren says she was thankful to have calm and clear instructions from the dispatcher on the phone. She hopes policymakers will see the need for a telephone CPR training standard.

"To me, it blows my mind that not all 911 dispatchers are, it just seems like a natural cause-and-effect way to increase survival rates,” says Bomgren. “Wisconsin recently passed legislation and usually, I feel like Minnesota's on the forefront, and this is an initiative that Minnesota just needs to take action on."

During American Heart Month, the American Heart Association is reminding Minnesotans to learn about the risks of cardiovascular disease, take steps to live healthier lives, and learn CPR.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MN