By Carina Livoti
On March 3, 2014, Cynthia Assemi and her 23-year-old son, Bijan, were watching TV, when the 47-year-old Northport hair stylist went into sudden cardiac arrest. They had just finished eating pancakes.
“I made a bad joke; I looked over and saw her head was back,” Bijan said.
He dialed 911; operators told him to begin CPR. Based on incident reports, Bijan performed CPR on his mother for 8 to 10 minutes before first responders arrived. Without her son’s immediate attention, Cynthia likely would have died before paramedics arrived.
Sudden cardiac arrest is an abrupt loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. Unlike a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest usually results from an electrical problem or blunt trauma to the chest, causing the heart to stop beating in an organized manner, depriving the body and brain of blood flow.
There were 359,400 reported cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the U.S. in 2013, according to the American Heart Association. About 40 percent of cases received bystander CPR, with an overall survival rate of 9.5 percent. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, the event is the leading cause of death in adults in the U.S. and other countries.
“The first person who’s with that person when they pass out, that person makes the difference between life and death,” Cynthia said.
She credits her life and brain function to her son’s knowledge of CPR and ability to act under pressure. Bijan learned how to do CPR in health class at Northport High School and had taken a 10-minute refresher course through the Board of Health in 2011.
Now, a year later, Cynthia said she wanted her story out there to underscore the importance of CPR training in saving the lives of victims of sudden cardiac arrest. She said she initially did her best to keep the incident quiet, but after a year of hearing about more and more sudden cardiac arrest through the SCA Foundation Survivor’s Network, she felt that spreading awareness was worth the unwanted attention she might receive.
Cynthia and her husband, Joe Assemi, owner of Cup O Joe Bagels on Route 25A in Huntington, both became CPR-certified after the incident. She wanted to make sure that they could do what their son did for her should a similar situation ever arise.
Community members may remember a devastating incident on March 25, 2000, in which the victim of cardiac arrest was not so fortunate. Fourteen-year-old Louis Acompora suffered from sudden cardiac death after a blow to the chest with a lacrosse ball, rocking the community. Since then, the Acompora family has dedicated itself to CPR and automated external defibrillator awareness and training.
The Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation’s latest campaign is one to mandate CPR training in New York Schools. In Oct. 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill mandating that CPR be taught in schools, which is pending the NYS Board of Regents’ approval.
There are a number of CPR-related applications available on smartphones. For those who are CPR trained, apps like PulsePoint Respond alert anyone with CPR training who is ready and willing to assist during an emergency. According to the app’s website, “notifications are made simultaneously with dispatch of paramedics.”
The American Heart Association has created a Pocket First Aid & CPR app with detailed guidelines and instructions for emergency situations like SCA.
Resources like HeartStart NY, the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, and the Red Cross offer CPR training courses; prices vary depending on the program.
Take a CPR Class
HeartStart Training offers courses at a variety of levels, from beginners to healthcare providers. They also offer on-site instruction. Prices vary. For more information, visit heartstartny.com
Advanced Training Center of Long Island offers similar courses to HeartStart, onsite and at their training center in Smithtown. Prices vary. For more information, visit advancedtrainingcenterli.com.
The Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation offers basic training at just $15 for new students and $10 for recertification students. For more information, visit www.la12.org.
The American Red Cross has classes available around the country. To find the one closest to you, visit http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class, input your location, and select the appropriate course from the dropdown menu.