CPR record: Rescuers save 7 lives

Charleston City Fire Department recognized firefighter Engine 103, A Shift crew Andrew Batkins, David Fleming and Jonathan Massie for helping save the life of a patient who was in full cardiac arrest on a CARTA bus on Monday, April 9, 2012. Also recognized but not picture is Eugene McIntosh. (Tyrone Walker/postandcourier.com)

Four minutes could save or end your life. That’s how long it takes for your brain to shut down after cardiac arrest.

This year, the Charleston Fire Department and EMS brought seven people back to life. It’s the most people who have suffered cardiac arrests that the Charleston Fire Department has saved in a single year.

“That’s what it comes down to and that’s why it’s so important everyone works together,” said Lt. Carl Fehr with Charleston County Emergency Medical Service.

Chief John Tippet credits the record to early intervention, trained personnel and the team effort that’s evolved between the Charleston Fire Department and EMS.

“If someone starts CPR as soon as the patient goes down, that’s the best chance for survival,” Tippet said.

On April 9, Engineer Dave Fleming, who works on Engine 3 out of the Central Station, was called to Marion Square in downtown Charleston.

A man had gone into a full arrest while riding on a CARTA bus. Nurses, who were aboard the bus, started CPR before firefighters got there. Fleming, who is trained as an emergency medical technician, his crew and EMS paramedics were able to save the man’s life.

“The record in the fire service —and the EMS guys will tell you too — for true cardiac arrests, they are not like the movies or TV where you expect miracles to happen. They just don’t usually happen,” he said.

Fleming knows how precious time can be, especially the first few minutes after someone collapses, which is why fire department leaders took a step to get more trained EMTs onboard every truck.

“At the end of the day we’re usually the ones that are first and the ones who get the ball rolling,” he said.

The department is trying to get at least one certified EMT on each truck. Since 2009, every recruit has been required to receive training to become a basic EMT.

“We have approximately 100 EMTs right now,” Tippet said.

Technology also is playing a part in the increase of lives saved, according to Fehr. Automatic External Defibrillators, or AEDs, are more commonplace. The lifesaving devices used to shock the heart can be essential in those critical moments.

“The key thing is getting the brain oxygen it needs to survive,” Fehr said.

When seconds count, rescuers hope that by continuing their joint training, the record number of lives saved becomes not just a milestone, but a trend.