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If You Want To Survive A Heart Attack, Live In Seattle

Medic One Foundation Photo/Oliver McIntosh

Seattle has long been known as the best place to have a heart attack – if you want to live. Nationally, survival rates for heart attack hover between a chest clutching 2 percent and 25 percent.

In King County, your likelihood of surviving the most serious cardiac rhythm disturbance, known as ventricular fibrillation, is as high as 56 percent.

Administering CPR can save someone’s life, but time and timing is of the essence. Health care workers from around the world were in Seattle this week to train in high performance CPR. They learned to function like pit crews: to work quickly, efficiently, seamlessly. 

Dr. Micky Eisenberg, medical director of King County Emergency Medical Services, said perfect CPR is the goal. “If you’re not at the right rate, at the right depth, the perfect recoil, if you’re pausing too long between chest compressions, the likelihood of successful resuscitation falls dramatically."

Tim Benningfield is the coordinator of fire and emergency services at the University of Alaska. He says training is critical to change emergency workers attitudes toward CPR.

“Sometimes the skills that are used here are not always successful. That can be a downer,” he said.

Benningfield added that sometimes emergency workers will just go through the motions because success rates are often low. But this training has inspired him.

“They have used science and research to indicate that it doesn’t have to be a failure as often as it was or may be. Kind of gives you something to take back and teach," he said.

And that’s the hope and the point of this training, according to Eisenberg. “What can be more gratifying than to talk to somebody whose life was saved? And saved by a system – a remarkable teamwork of dispatcher, firefighters, paramedics, hospital personnel. It isn’t one person that saves that life, it’s a team and that’s the important thing.”