Hundreds at Queen’s receive CPR training for World Restart a Heart Day

Students at Queen's take part in CPR training

Queen’s University marked one of many sites worldwide taking part in the “World Restart a Heart Day” initiative last week.

On October 16, World Restart a Heart Day aims to raise awareness of cardiac arrest and what bystanders can do to help greatly improve someone’s chance of survival.

This year McMaster’s Cardiovascular and Resuscitation Student Group led the charge in activities hosted at 12 universities in Ontario, with student volunteers facilitating basic CPR training at each participating campus.

The organizers from McMaster, Bianca Mammarella or Mika’il Visanji, started outreach in May to connect with other universities and site leaders at each school, aiming to provide training to 2,500 people in a single day.

While participants didn’t become CPR certified, the informal training acted as a way to share basic CPR knowledge and awareness of cardiac arrests, with an emphasis on the importance of someone stepping in when it happens.

A typical CPR/First Aid certification takes place over a two day span, while those run at Queen’s and other schools generally only engaged passing students for a handful of minutes.

Mika’il Visanji said in a perfect world everyone would be taken through the extensive course, but these smaller demonstrations help to instill basic knowledge into a wide range of people.

He says the goal is to give people enough knowledge that they’ll be comfortable enough to at least try to help.

“There’s not always going to be someone who’s trained,” Visanji said.

“Really the goal with this is for people who don’t have the time, don’t have the money to do one of those formal courses, if all we have is 2-5 minutes of their time we just want to give them the most information that they need so if they were to witness a cardiac arrest they know what to do.”

At Queen’s, co-founder of Queen’s Cardiac Research committee Reem Al Rawi felt it was a perfect event for the committee to get involved in.

The group set up a booth in the ARC from 11 am to 6 pm to take as many students as possible through the basics of CPR, and managed to train just under 300 people.

Al Rawi said a lot of people weren’t completely new to CPR or the use of Automatic External Defibrillators (AED), and so at the very least events like the one last week act as a refresher for people to keep that potentially life saving skill sharp enough to use.

“We actually noticed that a lot of students who were coming up to our booth already had some experience with CPR and AED training,” Al Rawi said.

“But they just had either forgotten the steps or were just kind of reluctant to jump in for one reason or another. So we thought that giving them just a very general debrief like that would make them more comfortable jumping in in the future.”

The event also hoped to raise support for Bill 141, the Defibrillator Registration and Public Access Act which aims to establish an AED registry in Ontario and mandate the use of AEDs in public spaces.

The bill passed legislature in 2020 but hasn’t been finalized.

Dr. Steven Brooks, with the department of emergency medicine at Queen’s, says he hopes to see the accessibility of AEDs go even further than Bill 141 would mandate, saying that AEDs for the home like a product coming out of Australia should become more commonplace.

Dr. Brooks says considering the low amount of people who generally survive cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting, only about 10%, responding to an event should be something people are generally more prepared for.

“I think it’s really important that we raise visibility of cardiac arrest to the level that we have done so with fire safety,” Dr. Brooks said.

“These little events I think serve to raise our awareness of cardiac arrest hopefully to get to that level where it’s just a normal part of our public safety landscape, it’s part of our expectations when we send our kid to school or we go to a workplace.”

Of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of hospital, roughly 50% of people receive bystander CPR and less than 3% get the advantage of an AED before paramedics arrive.

When staff are hyper prepared to respond to cardiac arrest and AEDs are available, the survival rate of a cardiac arrest can jump to roughly 70% according to one study.

Dr. Brooks says community preparedness and response can be improved, and lives can be saved by doing so.

“There’s sort of an impression that these things just happen and people die sometimes,” Dr. Brooks said.

“Many people who die like this, this was a preventable death if bystander CPR and AED happened.”

This year’s student led initiative saw over 3,500 students and faculty receive training at various universities.