Heart Safe Plymouth continues to spread awareness and training to increase survival rates for cardiac arrest victims

And the Beat Goes On Brewfest fundraiser set for Sunday, Feb. 26

Heart Safe Plymouth instructor Norm Okerstrom explains how to do chest compressions during a training session for employees at a local gas station. (Sun Sailor photo by Kristen Miller)
Heart Safe Plymouth instructor Norm Okerstrom explains how to do chest compressions during a training session for employees at a local gas station. (Sun Sailor photo by Kristen Miller)

Sudden cardiac arrest does not discriminate. Cardiac arrest can happen at any age, any place, and at any time; and proper and immediate responses on the part of bystanders can help in a matter of life and death.

Cardiac arrest, as defined by the American Heart Association, is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. The time and mode of death are unexpected, and occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear.

In 2015, there were 326,000 cardiac arrests that occurred outside of a hospital in the United States, according to the association. The average survival rate is 10.6 percent, and survival with good neurological function is 8.3 percent. Nearly one in three victims survives when the arrest is witnessed by a bystander.

Raising awareness and providing training to potential bystanders are the primary goals of Heart Safe Plymouth, a free program offered through the Plymouth Rotary.
Since its inception in 2012, program volunteers have conducted 150 one-hour training sessions and have trained more than 3,600 people on how to identify cardiac arrest and the proper steps to take to garner the highest rate of survival for the victim. Training includes CPR, specifically hands-only chest compressions, and how to use an automatic external defibrillator or AED.

Training others is a way for Plymouth Rotarian Norm Okerstrom to give back to the community after swift action on the football field saved Okerstrom’s son’s life in 2009.
“He’s one of the lucky ones,” he said, noting the survival rate is very low.

His son, Teddy, had just turned 16 and was out on the Wayzata High School football field, participating in summer conditioning, running light sprints when he collapsed suddenly.

Unresponsive and not breathing, Teddy turned blue, a tell-tale sign his heart wasn’t pumping blood to his brain and vital organs.
“It is at that point, the clock starts ticking,” Okerstrom said, explaining his son was, at that point, clinically dead.

The coach went into response mode and began doing chest compressions, while instructing one person to call 911 and another to find the AED located inside the school.
Chest compressions and the AED go hand-in-hand, Okerstrom explained during a recent Heart Safe training session. Hands-only CPR is a vital step that essentially takes the place of the heartbeat, forcing the blood to circulate throughout the body until the heart can be recharged with the AED. This can help prevent any brain damage that could occur due to loss of blood to the brain.

At Interfaith Outreach, a sticker on the door informs the public there is an AED onsite if ever needed.
At Interfaith Outreach, a sticker on the door informs the public there is an AED onsite if ever needed.

By performing chest compressions, “we’re buying time,” Okerstrom said, until a defibrillator can restore the normal heart rate. Immediate action is key, he said, noting the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent for each minute until defibrillation. Therefore, having an AED on-site can increase the chance of survival as opposed to waiting for emergency personnel to arrive with defibrillator.

“You don’t want to wait for help, be the help,” Okerstrom said, adding his son’s life was saved before emergency personnel arrived.

The main thing for bystanders is to check the person for consciousness and normal breathing. “If not, think cardiac,” he said.

While training on how to use an AED can be helpful, it is not necessary. It can, however, make one feel more comfortable to respond if and when an event may occur, Okerstrom said.

Pastor Wayne Peterson of St. Barnabas Lutheran Church rose to such an occasion during a wedding rehearsal in 2014, when he helped save a life after receiving Heart Safe AED training.

When turned on, the AED provides step-by-step instructions (and images) guiding the bystanders through the process. Also, the AED will not work if it is not needed, Okerstrom noted.
“I want people to understand this isn’t a rare occurrence. It happens every day,” he said. It can also happen without warning, Okerstrom said, noting his son wasn’t diagnosed with a heart condition, even after going into cardiac arrest.

Unlike working smoke detectors, AEDs are not mandatory, but Okerstrom strongly encourages all businesses and establishments have a cardiac emergency response plan, along with an accessible AED.

Since Wayzata School District began integrating AEDs in its schools and facilities around 2006, there are now more than 40 AEDs located throughout the district, according to Kristin Tollison, director of administrative services for the district. While she can’t recall another instance in which AEDs were needed in her 20 years at the district, Tollison said AEDs are like fire extinguishers.
“You wouldn’t want to go without it,” she said.
“We are always reviewing where they are located,” Tollison said, noting most recently AEDs were added to the new spaces in the high school.

While not mandatory for most staff members, the school district does provide voluntary training on AED and CPR throughout the year.
“There are multiple people in the building that have the training,” she said, referring to all of the schools in the district.
Heart Safe Plymouth training is available for any group of 10 or more people free of charge.

For more information or to schedule a training session, visit www.rotaryplymouth.org and click on the Heart Safe tab or email: [email protected].

And the Beat Goes On Brewfest Feb. 26
To help fund its Heart Safe Plymouth program, the Plymouth Rotary club will host its first-ever And the Beat Goes On Brewfest 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 at Plymouth Creek Center, 14800 34th Avenue.

Attendees will have unlimited tasting of the brews and hard ciders provided by 14 local breweries.
Some of the breweries include Castle Danger, Excelsior, 612, Omni, Sociable Cider Werks, Lupine, Modist, Waconia, and more breweries.

The event will also include live music by Jeff James and appetizers provided by Roasted Pear Catering.

Click here for tickets.

Proceeds will go to expand AED placement in the community and additional training equipment.

Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected].