August 21, 2009 started out like any other summer Friday for Roger Shearer, an employee at B. Braun Medical's manufacturing facility in Hanover Township, Pa. But it certainly wouldn't end that way.
Two hours into his shift, at about 4:30 p.m., Roger suddenly collapsed on our manufacturing floor while speaking to a co-worker.
He showed no signs of life when a group of B. Braun-trained, employee first responders quickly answered the call for help and reached his side. They immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), administered oxygen and used an automatic external defibrillator (AED) to successfully resuscitate him. When paramedics arrived minutes later, he had a pulse and had begun breathing on his own.
Thankfully, seven weeks after this incident, Roger returned to work. He recently joined me in thanking the employees and paramedics who came to his aid and he told them what doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital had told him: Without their training, quick response and proper use of a nearby AED, he probably would not have survived.
Incidents like this are, thankfully, rare in our company. Even rarer, it turns out, are happy endings like the one Roger experienced.
According to the American Heart Association, more than 294,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occur every year in the United States and, on average, less than eight percent of SCA victims survive. But, CPR and early defibrillation with an AED more than double a victim's chance of survival. Communities with comprehensive AED programs have achieved survival rates of 40 percent or higher.
It's time that we made those survival rates of 40 percent or higher the rule and not the exception in our companies and in our communities. We can do that by investing in the right equipment and by ensuring that more people know how to perform CPR and use this lifesaving equipment.
We've taken the first steps toward that goal by making CPR part of the health curriculum in many high schools and making lifesaving equipment more readily available. Defibrillators, once seen only in hospitals and in the hands of fictional paramedics on television dramas, are now commonplace and required by law in schools, airports and many other public buildings across the country.
They've become so common, in fact, that most of us walk by the cabinets that hold them without even noticing or giving them a second thought.
If someone collapsed in front of us as we walked through an airport or left a high school basketball game, how many of us would honestly know what to do? How many of us would have even the most basic training needed to remove that defibrillator from the cabinet and properly use it?
The answer is not enough, but we can and must change that.
Business, education and community leaders should make a renewed commitment to work with the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, local hospitals and other healthcare professionals and organizations to make CPR and AED training available to all employees, students and members of the community who understand the importance of knowing these valuable lifesaving techniques and want to learn them.
At this time of the year, as we think about the gifts we can give to others, let's consider making a true gift from the heart to our employees and the people in our communities by equipping them to give co-workers, neighbors, families and friends the greatest gift of all - the gift of life - in the event of a cardiac emergency.
As one B. Braun employee, Roger Shearer, will tell you, the training only takes a few hours, but the benefits can last a lifetime.