Recently, we hosted a survivor’s reunion. People, young and old, who survived in spite of a life- threatening medical emergency, thanked trained and dedicated emergency medical professionals, other first responders, and citizen bystanders.

There is a wonderful bond that exists between Central Jackson County Fire Protection District and the doctors and nurses serving in Emergency Services at St. Mary’s Medical Center. The cooperation and coordination that has developed over the years has saved many lives, but often overlooked is the non-professional in the equation – those whose actions before the ambulance arrives can often mean the difference between life and death.

We count on the bystander, when heart attacks and strokes hit loved ones, friends, and even complete strangers.

When an adult has a sudden cardiac arrest, his or her survival depends greatly on immediately receiving CPR from someone nearby. Unfortunately, less than one third of those people who experience a cardiac arrest at home, work, or in a public location get that help. Most bystanders are worried that they might do something wrong or make things worse. That’s why the American Heart Association has simplified things. It can be frightening to see an adult suddenly collapse near you, but if you do, call 911 and begin pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest. Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.

• Place yourself directly over their bodies. Find the center of chest, lock hands, and push.

• According to the latest AHA Guidelines for CPR, try to achieve:

• A compression depth of at least 2 inches in adults and a compression depth of approximately 1.5 inches in infants and young children.

• A compression rate of at least 100 per minute (think of the beat of the old Bee Gees’ song, "Stayin’ Alive") These are what is known as "Quality Compressions" – those delivered at the correct depth and at a rate of 100 per minute.

Chest compressions can be started immediately (no equipment needed). Hands-Only CPR is easy to perform for adult victims and can be easily guided by an EMS dispatcher over the phone. Remember: If nothing is done, nothing good happens.

• Oxygen flow to brain stops.

• Oxygen flow to heart stops.

• Drugs go nowhere.

Stroke victims also require quick action. In their case - Time lost is brain lost.

If you think someone is having a stroke – think F.A.S.T.

F – Face Drooping - Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A –Arm Weakness - Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S – Speech Difficulty - Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T – Time to call 911 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 to get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. The five most common signs and symptoms of stroke are:

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg.

• Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.

• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

• Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination.

• Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you’d like to learn more about CPR, we’d love to help. On the fourth Saturday of the month, from noon until 1 p.m., you can get hands-on experience with CPR at the CJC Training Center at 4715 West U.S. 40 in Blue Springs.

Increasing the number of people who know about Hands-Only CPR will increase the chance that someone can help when an adult suddenly collapses, and more lives can be saved.

For more information about CPR training at Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, call 816-229-9118.

Mike Wallace is EMS Operations captain for the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District in Blue Springs.