RACE CARS brings together EMS specialists for collaborative meeting

Physicians, researchers, first responders and hospital clinicians from across the country gathered Monday, May 6 at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club as part of a continued initiative to improve community, pre-hospital, and in-hospital treatment for cardiac arrest patients. The meeting was sponsored by the Medtronic Foundation’s HeartRescue Project and North Carolina’s Regional Approach to Cardiovascular Emergencies Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation System (RACE CARS). Attendees included cardiac arrest experts from across the nation, including representation from Washington, Illinois, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Alaska as well as American Medical Transport, the Medtronic Foundation, and the American Heart Association (AHA).

Gordon Ewy, MD, (pictured right) a professor of cardiology and director of the Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, was one of the keynote speakers for the meeting. Ewy, a long-time advocate of chest-compression–only CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), has in recent years had great success working with the Arizona Department of Health Services to implement an education and emergency medical services (EMS) restructuring plan in Tucson, AZ. Using Ewy’s guidelines, patient outcomes improved to a 38 percent chance of neurologically intact survival to hospital discharge, compared with only a 15 percent chance when using 2000 AHA guidelines.

Because a patient’s blood is oxidized normally before a cardiac event, Ewy asserts that constant chest compressions are the best way to keep oxygen flowing to the brain and other vital organs. He explains that in his tests, even experienced paramedics paused chest compressions for an average of 10 seconds when, in following the current AHA recommendations, they stopped to administer breaths. Ewy therefore questions the value of the current guidelines in preserving a patient’s neurological functionality following a cardiac event.

North Carolina General Assembly representative Rebecca Ann Carney was also a featured speaker at the event. Carney (pictured left) told her story of how receiving CPR saved her life after her own cardiac event and how that has inspired her to improve first response standards in North Carolina by providing automated external defibrillators (AEDs), collecting data, and mandating CPR training in public schools and for state employees.

“I know I am a miracle, and when miracles happen to us, it is up to us not to close our door and be grateful internally. It is up to us to share,” reflected Carney. “If there is an AED nearby or if someone is there who knows CPR, you can survive.”