By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
“If you end up doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), it’s usually going to be for someone you care about — a good friend or family member,” said Bob Kempenich, a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest.
Kempenich, of Little Falls, and survivor Mike Hengel, of St. Cloud, gave three Take Heart St. Cloud-sponsored CPR trainings to health classes at Little Falls Community High School (LFCHS). They were both dead and are alive today because someone did CPR for them.
“I was brought back because somebody breathed for me,” said Hengel. “We are here to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest, to raise the survival rate.”
Take Heart St. Cloud coordinator Susie Osaki Holm contacted the LFCHS school nurse and principal regarding CPR classes, and they forwarded the information to health teacher, Tara Jordan.
Take Heart’s primary goal is to improve the sudden cardiac arrest overall survival rate. “In Greater St. Cloud, the rate has increased from 7 percent to 20 percent using the combined protocols,” said Kempenich.
In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart just stops. The blood flow stops; the body’s electrical system stops. Only five out of every 100 people with sudden cardiac arrest survive long enough to make it to the hospital, Hengel said.
Something that used to be associated with older people is happening more and more often to young people. “There is a five-year-old survivor in St. Cloud, a 16-year-old survivor near the Mall of America, a 17-year-old survivor in Pequot Lakes and one in Pierz,” Kempenich said.
“For every minute you wait to do CPR, the victim loses another 10 percent of their chance of survival,” Hengel said.
“When you see someone suddenly collapse, they’ve died — their heart is no longer capable of pumping blood,” said Hengel. “Do it for them.”
“First, make sure the situation is safe. If you would be endangering your life by trying to do CPR for someone, then don’t do it,” he said. “We don’t want two people to die.”
Next, shake the person about the shoulders, shout and ask if they’re OK. Then tilt their head back to open their airway and give them one breath. Watch to see if their chest expands.
“Call 911. If you’re alone at the scene tell the operator, but do not hang up,” said Hengel. “If you’re using a cell phone, put it on speakerphone so you can talk to the operator as you do CPR.”
When you start CPR, be on your knees with your arms straight out in front of you, elbows locked. Bend at the waist. Put the heel of your hand on the breastbone of the person needing help. Put your other hand on top of it and twine your fingers together.
“Do 30 compressions, then give the person two breaths, and go back to 30 compressions,” said Kempenich. “Repeat this until help comes, for as long as you can.”
“Compressions are done at the rate of 100 per minute,” he said. “If you know a song that is 100 beats per minute and can think of that rhythm in your head, that will help.”
“I use ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the BeeGees,” said Kempenich.
“In cases where you really don’t want to give someone else breaths, you can do ‘hands only’ CPR,” said Hengel. “If it’s an adult, and if it’s someone you actually witness collapse, it does work quite well. You do the compressions and not the breathing.”
There is still five to eight minutes of oxygen in the body’s bloodstream and lungs when the heart stops.
For children under age nine, they usually have a respiratory arrest first, then their heart stops. Their oxygen reserve was burnt up during the respiratory arrest.
Kempenich was at work in December of 2005 when he got a blank look on his face and collapsed, a witness later told him. “There were a couple people there who knew CPR and they started it for me.”
“Someone had called 911 and the squad car was there in five minutes,” he said. “They had a portable automated external defibrillator (AED), and shocked me with that. They alternated between CPR and the AED until Gold Cross Ambulance arrived. I was shocked two more times in the ambulance.”
St. Cloud had just started the Arctic Sun protocol, which cools the body to a temperature of 92 degrees. “Cooling pads are put around the person’s thighs and waist and at the back of the neck. This slows the heart rate, slows metabolism and slows swelling in the brain,” he said.
“I was the first in Minnesota to receive this treatment,” said Kempenich.
“There is now an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) in my chest which detects if something is wrong in my heart and shocks it,” he said.
Hengel had just dropped off a truck load in Avon and was doing paperwork, when he dropped dead on the floor. He lay on the floor for 13-14 minutes before anyone even called 911.
“Then a first responder who was in the area started mouth-to-mouth CPR. Four more responders came and they had a portable AED,” said Hengel.
“After six shocks they got a faint heartbeat. Then the ambulance crew arrived, and it took 90 minutes to drive 16 miles to the St. Cloud Hospital,” he said.
“I died three times in the ambulance, and every time they had to stop and work on me. I died once more in the emergency room,” Hengel said.
After 30 minutes he was stabilized and given the Arctic Sun treatment — the thirteenth person in Minnesota, said Hengel. After five days’ rest he had open heart surgery to repair damage, and five days later had an ICD implanted.
“My ICD makes my heart work 100 percent of the time,” he said, “because only 20-25 percent of my heart muscle is alive.”
“Because CPR was delayed for me, I lost half of who I am — memory, skills, breathing capacity, stamina,” said Hengel. “But it means a lot just to wake up in the morning.”
“Every day is a bonus day,” Kempenich said. “Little things just don’t matter.”
Take Heart St. Cloud is funded by the CentraCare Health Foundation and supported by the CentraCare Heart and Vascular Center at St. Cloud Hospital.
Take Heart classes have been conducted at Foley, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Pierz, Rocori, Apollo and Tech High Schools, and for the Richmond community and Catholic Charities.
“It was real for the students to have survivors advocating for CPR,” said Jordan. “The students thought the class was fantastic and interactive and was both humorous and serious.”
“We encourage everyone to learn CPR skills,” Kempenich said.
“We want you to do something — anything — rather than do nothing,” said Hengel. “Help someone else like we were helped.”
Those who would like a free 50-minute Bystander CPR/AED training (note: this is not a certified training) for their business, may contact Susie at (320) 420-1839 extension 54174.
For more information about Take Heart St. Cloud visit www.takeheartminne sota.org.