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03:11 - Source: CNN

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PulsePoint alerts CPR-trained people that aid is needed nearby

The app means people in cardiac arrest can get help quicker

CNN  — 

One Friday night this month, Madeline Dahl, a 23-year-old nurse in the cardiology ICU at Seattle’s University of Washington Medical Center, received an alert on her cell phone: Someone nearby needed help.

Having just finished her shift, Dahl dropped what she was doing at the hospital and ran down five flights of stairs to the street.

“It was right during a huge storm, so it was raining, and I was trying to figure out where they would be,” she said. “And then I saw Zach was bent over somebody on the ground, so I ran over.”

Zach Forcade, a 27-year-old medical student, hovered above a man beside a bus stop outside the hospital. Forcade had seen Stephen DeMont fall to the ground and shouted to a passer-by to dial 911 before he performed chest compressions, trying to keep DeMont’s heart beating.

That same 911 call triggered an alert that Dahl and 40 other people nearby received. All 41 had three things in common: They knew CPR, they had downloaded an app known as PulsePoint, and they could have been close enough to help.

“I didn’t really know if it would work,” said Dahl, who had never received a PulsePoint alert before DeMont collapsed. “I mean, it sounds like a crazy idea, but then I received an alert, and a little map came up and showed me where he was … and there he was!”

Madeline Dahl, Stephen DeMont, and Zach Forcade

Though she herself didn’t perform CPR, she helped Forcade by making sure DeMont’s air passage remained clear and by counting compressions.

DeMont doesn’t remember any of it.

“I rolled into the bus stop, stopped the bike, swung my leg over, stood up and got real light-headed,” said DeMont, 60, a technical writer. “The next thing I remember is, I’m in ICU.”

First responders hiding in plain sight

As described by the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating, resulting in a lack of blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. If the heart stops, real damage can result.

Every year, more than 350,000 cardiac arrest incidents occur outside a hospital, yet only 46.1% of those people receive bystander CPR, and just 12% of the total 350,000 patients survive, the American Heart Association says.

“If you don’t get chest compressions – if you don’t get high-quality CPR – your heart starts to die, but so do all your other organs, and a lot of that damage is permanent,” Dahl said. The result can be “very, very severe brain damage. Some people are never the same again and are unable to recover from that injury.”

By comparison, effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival, according to the heart association. In a new guideline issued this month, the association recommends that cities consider using apps and mobile phones to connect those in cardiac arrest with nearby CPR-trained rescuers.