Pit crew CPR heading countywide

Published 11:33 am Sunday, May 10, 2015

The days of a cardiac arrest patient immediately being loaded up in an ambulance and taken to the hospital are over.

Educating the public about it is one of the first things John Flemming is doing in his role as the new Beaufort County EMS Director. Flemming, a 15-year paramedic and retired Coast Guardsman, moved to his new position on May 1 from an 18-month stint as the EMS director overseeing both Washington and Tyrrell counties.

What he’s heard during his first week on the job is that there’s some confusion as to the new method of CPR being use, one in which continual chest compressions, ventilation and medication are given to the patient on scene. It’s called pit crew CPR, named so because up to six emergency responders are working on the patient simultaneously, each having a critical role in getting the patient’s blood circulating again. The key is in the rotation of EMTs/paramedics providing 100 chest compressions a minute to the victim with no interruption — impossible to do in the back of a moving vehicle, and with the interruption of moving a patient to the vehicle.

“Out of all the cardiac arrests that are worked, from time of cardiac arrest to the time of walking out of the hospital, there is a 37-percent success rate,” Flemming said about pit crew CPR.

Since pit crew CPR is being used on 83 percent of the state’s population, in real numbers the 37-percent success rate translates to about 1,000 North Carolina residents per year who survive cardiac arrest when pit crew CPR is administered. Without it, the success rate drops to less than 1 percent, according to state statistics, Flemming said. North Carolina sits just above the national average of pit crew CPR-administered survival rates.

Cardiac arrest is one of the most common calls to which EMS squads are dispatched. This week, there were three known cardiac arrests in Beaufort County, and it rarely happens within a medical environment. Historically, 40 percent of all cardiac arrests happen at home, which is why Flemming and the county’s emergency responders want the public to know exactly why it is EMTs/paramedics are not immediately moving a loved one to the hospital: because his or her life may depend on staying put.

“In my opinion, one person surviving cardiac arrest is worth the effort to continue to work the way we’re working,” Flemming said.

As Beaufort County squads make the transition to paramedic level, pit crew CPR will continue to be rolled out across the county, Flemming said.

The chest compressions intergral to pit crew CPR are vital to cardiac arrest victims — and something that anyone can do before emergency squads show up to the scene.

“Knowing what rate to do chest compressions could help — you could be saving your family member, you could be saving your friend. There’s enough residual oxygen in the blood to support life. All you’re doing is pumping for the heart.

You never know, you might go home today and need it. You might not ever need it. But if you know it, it might mean the difference between someone living or dying,” Flemming said.

Those interested in learning or brushing up on CPR can contact Beaufort County Community College and the local American Red Cross for more information about certification.