The numbers are sobering. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical paramedics perform CPR on someone at least once every other week in an attempt to save a life.
What's more sobering, though, is the number of times they don't get the chance.
"There are a lot of times we get called out and don't do anything because it is too late," said Mike McMillen, a paramedic/firefighter with the department.
Fire and medical leaders are hoping that a new DVD kit that allows people to learn CPR in the comfort of their homes - in about 25 minutes - will help prevent those situations.
The kit developed by the American Heart Assn. includes an approximately 20-minute instructional DVD, a book and a small head-to-chest mannequin that allows people to practice both chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing.
Lt. Jim Saladin, the CPR coordinator for the Lawrence department, said the kit was part of an effort to increase the number of people who have been trained in CPR from 9 million today to 20 million by 2010. Saladin said the hope was that the kit would make it more convenient for people to learn, and encourage people who have been hesitant to attend a CPR class.
"People can do this in the privacy of their own home and get over the apprehension of being in a classroom setting," Saladin said.
He said studies showed that the chance of survival for people who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest fell by 10 percent for every minute following the attack that CPR was not administered. After about four minutes, permanent brain damage begins to occur. He said about 80 percent of all sudden cardiac arrests occurred at home, which means that it usually will take a paramedic crew longer than four minutes to arrive.
"And unfortunately, the people in the home usually don't know how to perform CPR," Saladin said.
The department, with financial assistance from the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Assn., provides training to about 3,500 people per year, including all fifth- and eighth-grade students in public schools. Saladin said he didn't have any estimate of how many area residents may learn through the home-based kit, but he said he hoped each kit was used by at least three people.
"We're encouraging people to pass them along," Saladin said.
Home-based CPR kit
People can order the home-based CPR kit from the American Heart Assn. for $29.95 at www.cpranytime.org or via telephone at 877-AHA-4CPR. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical also will host two traditional CPR training classes in December. The first class will be from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Dec. 29 at Fire Station No. 6, 225 Maine. The class, which costs $45, is geared to people who need to be certified in basic health care techniques. The second class is from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 at Fire Station No. 6. It is for the general public and costs $35. People can register for either class by calling 832-7766.