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New Jersey heroes honored for saving lives

Thirty-eight individuals and organizations in New Jersey were recently honored at the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association 2018 New Jersey American Heartsavers and Stroke Heroes Awards for their lifesaving efforts. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s American Heartsavers and Stroke Heroes Awards is held annually to commend individuals, organizations and schools throughout the Garden State for taking extraordinary steps to strengthen the American Heart Association Chain of Survival or for rescue efforts that saved a life of someone experiencing a cardiac or stroke emergency.

The Chain of Survival is only as strong as its weakest link. The American Heart Association Chain of Survival is a critical five-step process that can mean the difference between life and death for someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack or stroke, as well as other medical emergencies such as choking and drowning. The five critical steps or “links” in the Chain of Survival include:

Link 1: Early Access – know the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack and stroke and call 911 immediately

Link 2: Early Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Link 3: Early Defibrillation

Link 4: Early Advanced Care

Link 5: Integrated Post-Cardiac Arrest Care

Nearly 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year. Given immediately, CPR doubles or triples survival rates and executing the Chain of Survival can save thousands of lives annually. Additionally, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, while someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. Time is crucial for stroke treatment, the faster the Chain of Survival is initiated and symptoms are recognized, the better the outcome.

After New Jersey enacted legislation requiring all public and private K-12 schools to implement an emergency action plan and have defibrillators placed within 90 seconds of a school’s athletic field, Dr. Nidhi Kumar, cardiologist and director of Women’s Health at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, helped launched the All Heart Program—an initiative to train coaches to be first responders in NJ by knowing CPR and having access to an AED for situations outside of schools.

Thanks to a coordinated effort of many individuals, the Players Development Academy—a nationally recognized soccer club based out of Somerset, the Sean Fisher Memorial Foundation and Saint Peter’s University Hospital launched the All Heart Program this year.  Eighty coaches were trained in CPR and began the process of equipping their fields with defibrillators.

Christian Ventura, of Edison, was recognized for also implementing a lifesaving program along with assisting to save a life. At an American Heart Association event, one of the volunteers – who happened to be a survivor of heart disease – felt very short of breath, weak and experienced palpitations. Dr. Rosa Coppoleccia, a fellow awardee, along with Ventura, rushed to help, prepared with an AED.

Ventura is also the founder of HAMES and the Student Samaritan Initiative which works to train at least one school in every county in New Jersey in CPR/AED use. Additionally, the group advocates that all high school students become fully certified in CPR.

The American Heartsaver Recognition Program is an initiative supporting the American Heart Association’s efforts to strengthen the Chain of Survival in area communities as part of their impact goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans while reducing death and disability from heart disease and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020.

Anyone can learn CPR and know the signs of a stroke. Visit for a short instructional video on hands-only CPR that could help save a life.

The American Stroke Association suggests remembering the acronym FAST to recall the most common signs of stroke:

·         Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the mouth lopsided or uneven?

·         Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

·         Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

·         Time to Call 911 – If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

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