I saw the first image on Facebook, a headline from the NY Daily News proclaiming that Tom Petty’s death draws attention to dangers of cardiac arrest. I literally smacked my head when I read the line at the end of the article:
But with emergency medical attention, cardiac arrest can be reversed. When used within a few minutes, a defibrillator can shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.
I was amazed at the barely 300-word rudimentary content being passed off as news articles today. Then I saw other articles that practically regurgitated the same deluded information:
- CBS News – Tom Petty’s death from cardiac arrest shines spotlight on sudden killer
- Today – What is a cardiac arrest? Tom Petty’s death puts focus on condition
- USA Today – The deaths of Tom Petty and Hugh Hefner: What is cardiac arrest?
The best article is probably the one from USA Today, because at least it points out that Hugh Hefner also died from cardiac arrest with other contributing factors.
The truth is, everyone who dies suffers from cardiac arrest.
There is also no such thing as a “partial” cardiac arrest. There are only two kinds of arrests out there, respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest. You can have a respiratory arrest with cardiac activity, but you can’t have a cardiac arrest with respiratory activity. The improper application of the EMS jargon “full arrest” by reporters, who generally speaking are medical laypeople, is misleading to the public.
Why does this misrepresentation matter to us? It continues to set expectations of our services that we as an industry are unable to meet. It is important that we take this conversation further than the 300 some odd words thrown together by the “hometown” newspaper. Agencies need to focus on the elements of a successful resuscitation (early CPR, defibrillator access, continuous compressions, etc.), lest the public think all they need to do is dial the magic numbers and their loved ones will be easily cured of this electrical short circuit.
As the saying, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, goes, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
On a brighter note, today is National Taco Day! May your tortillas be crunchy (or soft), your sour cream be creamy, and your cheese be shredded!!!