Humberto “Rick” Turcios knows with all his heart that the message “CPR Saves Lives” is true, and now it is a message he wants to spread to as many people as possible.
On Oct. 21, 2018, Turcios was having dinner with his family in Planada. Turcios hadn’t been feeling particularly well that day, but his inner voice told him not to cancel his dinner plans with his family. It was fortunate he listened to that inner voice, because just as the dishes were being put away, Turcios had a heart attack and collapsed to the floor.
One family member called 911 and Turcios’ son-in-law, Ken Forgey, began CPR. Forgey had learned CPR while serving as a volunteer fireman in the 1970s and had been recertified four years prior. He had performed it once before years earlier on a neighbor, but performing it on a family member was “an overwhelming experience,” Forgey said.
Unbeknownst to the family, they had already performed two vital steps of a five-step process that studies have shown gives heart attack victims the best odds of survival.
The five links are detailed in the American Heart Association’s Chain of Survival: Recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system; Early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions; Rapid defibrillation; Basic and advanced emergency medical services; and Advanced life support and post-cardiac arrest care.
On Tuesday, Riggs Ambulance Service brought Turcios and his family together with the individuals who helped save his life, including the emergency medical technicians, emergency dispatchers, Merced City Fire Department personnel, and the team from Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, where Turcios was treated. The reunion of sorts was not only to recognize the efforts of so many individuals, but also to help promote the importance of compression-only CPR as a vital tool in the life-saving measures.
According to the American Heart Association, every year an estimated 350,000 sudden cardiac arrest events occur in the United States in an out-of-hospital environment. Without quick intervention in the form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation, death from SCA is certain.
“When we go out and do these events and we focus on compression-only CPR — this is why we do it,” said Riggs Ambulance Service Clinical Director David Murphy, as he pointed to Turcios. “We want more situations like this where we are celebrating as a community these wonderful saves.”
Compression-only CPR, also known as Bystander CPR, is when a person only does chest compressions on an individual, rather than the rotation of compressions and then breathing into the lungs. Health officials offer the tip of doing the chest compressions to the beat of the Bee Gee’s classic “Stayin’ Alive.” According to the AHA, performing CPR can double a person’s chance of survival from sudden cardiac arrest. The AHA also found that 75 percent of all cardiac arrests happen in people’s home, so knowing CPR is more likely to save the life of a loved one than a complete stranger.
February is Heart Health Month and the AHA is hoping to increase awareness of heart disease and cardiac arrest as a new study finds more Americans are vulnerable to having a heart attack. About 48 percent of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease, according to the AHA’s latest report on heart disease and stroke. The increase reflects recently updated guidelines for treating high blood pressure. High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – can lead to heart attack, heart failure and stroke. In November 2017, the AHA and American College of Cardiology updated the definition of high blood pressure as a reading of 130/80 millimeters of mercury, compared to the previous definition of 140/90.
"We're becoming more and more aware of the importance of high blood pressure. Levels we used to think were normal we now associate with worse outcomes, and treating them makes a big difference," said Dr. Emelia J. Benjamin, a professor of cardiology at Boston University and chair of the group that wrote the American Heart Association's "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2019 Update.”