A CPR-Ready Philippines by 2021

Dr. Lapitan guides a participant in an ongoing CPR mass demonstration in Bohol. Photo by Teddy Pelaez


Dr. Raul L. Lapitan, immediate past president of the Philippine Heart Association and Dr. Francis N. Lavapie, chairman for Council on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, share with H&L the importance of learning the basics of CPR for the lay and the PHA vision to make every Filipino capable of executing it

By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos

It’s 2021. In one busy street in Manila, an old woman suddenly collapses and falls to the ground under the scorching heat of the sun. A man, who sees what happens, quickly comes to the rescue.

He taps her. “Hey, are you okay?” No response.

He then checks her breathing. Nothing. Must be sudden cardiac arrest, he thinks.

Another bystander calls for emergency response. He then administers chest compressions on the unconscious woman. For minutes he does this, checking her breathing every now and then until the ambulance arrives.

Suddenly, the woman begins breathing again. He turns her in a recovering position. She’s alive!

Imagine a nation of lifesavers. Everyone—the young and the old—knows how to resuscitate a person whose heart and lungs appear to have stopped functioning. A basic knowledge on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can indeed go a long way.

This is what the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) aims to achieve by the year 2021—a country who knows how to do basic CPR, and possibly save the life of a person who has just experienced a cardiac arrest.

The good news is that this can be done by practically everyone if only there is heightened awareness about it.

Hands-only CPR training

According to the Department of Health (DOH) in 2013, heart diseases remain to be the leading cause of death in the country. In fact, it is linked with over 20 percent or roughly about 1 in 5 deaths per year.

According to Dr. Raul L. Lapitan, immediate past president of PHA, about 70 percent of cardiac arrests and heart attacks happen out of the hospital. This means that incidences occur in most public places like streets, establishments and homes.

CPR on Wheels and Wings conducted in Panglao Island, Bohol. Photo by Teddy Pelaez

He says, “Of those successfully brought to the hospital, only 4-6 percent come out alive with minimal mental and physical defects.”

Dr. Lapitan stresses that when a person is stricken with heart seizure, best chances of survival starts with how long emergency responds.

“Performing CPR while waiting for authorities or help to arrive is paramount to mitigate the implications of heart failure like stroke or paralysis,” he adds.

With this, Dr. Lapitan highlights the PHA’s vision of making every person knowledgeable in executing quality CPRs.

“The Philippine Heart Association advocates lay hands-only CPR education to lessen fatalities and empowering the laity or those who are untrained medically to save lives.”

The “CPR-Ready Philippines” campaign started during the height of the impact created by the sudden cardiac arrest of basketball legend Samboy Lim during a game in 2014. With Cong. Coach Yeng Guiao filing a Bill called “BLS Training in Schools Act” or “Samboy Lim Bill,” PHA helped lobby for it in Congress and Senate through a nationwide campaign for CPR awareness.

PHA had its first CPR awareness in 2016, with over 23,000 children and adults nationwide being trained on Hands-Only CPR.

Dr. Francis Lavapie, chairman of the Council on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, takes pride on the first campaign’s major success which sparked awareness from government and non-government organization, private institutions, and schools.

More training was conducted by the different PHA chapters as well as those conducted separately by the Department of Health (DOH) regional centers, Philippine Red Cross and American Heart Association (AHA) regional centers.

The success and outpouring partnerships with different organizations have ignited more training in 2017 up to this year.

“Through the success of this campaign, PHA moved a step forward and launched further the ‘CPR-Ready Philippines @ 2021’ which will set our sights to making the Philippines CPR Ready, with at least 70 percent of Filipinos trained by year 2021,” Dr. Lavapie says.

CPR wheels and wings

The target of reaching more and more Filipinos trained has sparked the idea of bringing the campaign to the grassroots level.

The goal is to train the trainers. Specific groups of people—life guards, tourism personnel, hotel and resorts staff, and barangay health workers—are given hands only CPR training so they can also teach other people.

“So far, the CPR Ready Philippines campaign has come a long way and is currently continuously spreading the training, now involving many private institutions, and government agencies,” adds Dr. Lavapie. Public and private schools are also now preparing for the full implementation of the Samboy Lim Law.

Since it has been launched, a rough estimate of about 65,000 persons were trained from the Nationwide Mass CPR campaign and CPR Wheels and Wings program alone. There were separate trainings for 13 different PHA chapters and DOH training hospitals as well.

“We might say we may have at least more than 200,000 people already trained which is still I think underestimated,” says Dr. Lavapie, who note that the people trained, which included schoolchildren and adolescents, eagerly welcomed learning CPR.

“From our assessment, CPR can be appropriately done by children as young as 10 years old,” explains Dr. Lavapies.

For the cardiologist, learning the basics of quality CPR is important not only for medical practitioners but for everyone, so they can save a cardiac arrest patient anytime.

The importance of AEDs

Apart from teaching CPR to the lay, PHA also strongly recommends the availability of AEDs in busy areas like malls and parks. An AED is a portable device that sends an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. Ventricular fibrillation is likely the immediate cause of sudden cardiac arrest, and timely resuscitation or defibrillation could hopefully convert the rhythm back to a regular rhythm.

Dr. Lavapie notes that AEDs should be within reach in airports, terminals, schools, and other public places to improve the chances of resuscitation of an arrested individual.

PHA awards “CPR Ready Philippines Seal of Excellence” to institutions with continuing programs for teaching CPR and have AEDs in place.

Currently, PHA awarded Resorts World Manila as the first CPRReady establishment and Balanga Bataan as the first CPR-Ready City.

PHA is also currently lobbying in Congress the passing of the “AED Bill” sponsored by Cong. Garcia and Sen. JV Ejercito in the Senate mandating the placement of AEDs in all public places.

Bystander CPR

Dr. Lapitan, who is also the engineer behind the CPR Wheels and Wings, highlights the importance of doing bystander CPR.

“Fatalities could be mitigated, if not prevented, if everyone is CPR-skilled and because the first responders or frontliners in medical emergencies are the bystanders or witnesses on the streets or loved ones at home,” he notes. “Thus, it will not only benefit the patient from suffering but the witness as well in handling the crisis.”

Meanwhile, saving a life through CPR is a topic which hits close to home for Dr. Lavapie.

It was intended to be a leisurely trip to the islands of El Nido, Palawan when the cardiologist had to administer CPR to a drowning colleague. In fact, he had to do CPR in a moving speedboat amidst buffeting waves heading for the mainland where they sought for emergency response.

After saving his life, it was when he realized that many should be able to save someone’s life by just merely knowing how to administer good basic bystander CPR.

“Learning CPR is not only dedicated to health personnel or for any allied healthcare provider, it is actually an intervention that can be learned by anyone even children,” stresses Dr. Lavapie.

Called as Bystander CPR, giving high quality chest compressions to a patient who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest within 4-6 minutes can be done by anybody.

He adds, “Teaching Hands Only CPR to anyone especially if the learning will start in schools as early as primary to secondary school, will greatly increase awareness of its importance, as well as build confidence in anyone that he or she can also be a lifesaver.”

And a lifesaver all of us could be with a knowledge of the all important CPR.

“Teaching Hands Only CPR to anyone especially if the learning will start in schools as early as primary to secondary school, will greatly increase awareness of its importance, as well as build confidence in anyone that he or she can also be a lifesaver.”

May 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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