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Time matters in treating heart attacks, stroke

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Feb. 06, 2021 - 8:55 AM

Time matters in treating heart attacks, stroke

Kiwanis President-Elect Linda Dickerson, a local registered nurse and American Heart Association First Aid/CPR instructor demonstrated hands-only CPR. Diana Ferrante gets a tutorial in administering hands-only CPR.

A focus on heart attacks, strokes and demonstrating CPR and AED’s was the recent subject of discussion of the Kiwanis Club of Coweta County.

With an emphasis on wellness, Kiwanis President-Elect Linda Dickerson, a local registered nurse and American Heart Association First Aid/CPR instructor shared information on how to perform hands-only CPR and use an AED.

Dickerson said some people deny that they are having a heart attack, and believe it to be indigestion.

“They say, ‘It can't happen to me, I am healthy,’ or, ‘Just let me rest; I will be fine,’” she said.

Dickerson noted that a heart attack is commonly the result of atherosclerosis (fatty buildups) in the arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle.

Plaque buildup narrows the inside of the arteries, making it harder if not impossible to flow. The amount of damage to the heart muscle depends on the size of the area supplied by the blocked artery, as well as the time between the injury to the heart and treatment.

“It is important to seek help as soon as possible,” she said. “Know the warning signs of a heart attack, which can be the difference in surviving or not.”

Common heart attack warning signs include pain or discomfort in the chest; lightheadedness; nausea or vomiting; jaw, neck or back pain; discomfort or pain in the arm or shoulder; and shortness of breath.

Dickerson emphasized if you or someone you are with has chest discomfort, especially showing one or more other warning signs, immediately call 911.

“Seconds count and time is critical,” she said. “If someone collapses and their heart stops beating, for every minute life-saving measures such as CPR are delayed, the chance of survival decreases by 7-10 percent.”

Hands-Only CPR was developed to help someone suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. A bystander administering hands-only CPR until the Emergency Medical Services arrive increases the chance of the victim's survival.

There are two steps to hands-only CPR: Call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

“If you see an adult or teen collapse or who is unconscious, call 911 and begin chest compressions,” she said. “These chest compressions are good for the first few minutes someone is in cardiac arrest because pushing the remaining oxygen through the body helps keep vital organs alive. It buys time until someone with more skills can provide medical help.”

During the meeting, Kiwanians practiced hands-only CPR with mannequins provided. Being able to practice gave each person a better understanding of how to do it, and do it correctly.

Dickerson also demonstrated the use of an automated external defibrillator, which is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

She explained that AED devices are now quite common in areas where the public gathers such as schools, churches, ballfields, airports and in airplanes, to name a few. When used properly, these devices will often be able to "shock" the heart back into a rhythm, which allows the heart to work properly by pumping blood throughout the body.

AEDs are simple to operate, once turned on. The AED will walk the rescuer step by step through the AED's operation. Dickerson encouraged participants to try and find where an AED is located the next time they are in a public place; they are marked, usually in easy-to-see areas.

Dickerson also addressed strokes, which occur when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. This prevents brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients, and brain cells begin to die in minutes.

A stroke is a medical emergency where prompt treatment is crucial, because it is largely treatable, a matter of getting the right treatment, right away. Stroke warning signs include:

F - Face drooping — Does one side of the face droop or is numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?

A - Arm weakness — Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S - Speech difficulty — Is speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T - Time to call 911 — If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 and get the person to the hospital immediately.

Dickerson provided the following websites for gaining more information:;;

Dickerson reminded everyone to become more aware of recognizing heart attack and stroke symptoms and emphasized the importance of calling 911 when an emergency arises.

"Don't wait, because time is critical,” she said. “Know that you can make a difference."

The Kiwanis Club of Coweta County meets face-to-face and on ZOOM on the second and fourth Thursday morning at 10 a.m., Newnan Country Club. Check for more details and how to contact the Club.