Individuals are the Numerator with SCA Saves

Anne Kelly’s piece, Odds of Surviving Cardiac Arrest Unchanged (KFYR-TV 12/9/09), accentuates disturbing and, perhaps, counter-productive figures related to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Kelly cites national Sudden Cardiac Arrest survival rates and stubborn statistical data that industry insiders see time and time again – Out-of-hospital survival rates are less than 5%, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Correctly, Kelly correlates this “stagnant” data to poor and/or inadequate training, even in the face in increased awareness and deployment of life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AED Units).

Kelly fails to mention, however, that “minor” adjustments to a numerator in any equation wherein the denominator is large, will provide a similar quotient to that which was previously calculated. That is, since SCA kills approximately 350,000 people each year (a HUGE denominator) and only 5% are saved (17,500; a SMALL numerator, relative to the denominator) to see a one-percent adjustment in survival rates, 3,500 new lives must be saved! When stepping away from the long-division and humanizing the math, 3,500 people becomes a meaningful number of lives. For reference, UNICEF reports that child abuse leads to 3,500 child deaths each year.

For arguments sake, let us assume that we’re rounding to the hundreds place – after all, these are just numbers, right? Saving an additional 1,749 lives would result in just under a 0.5% increase to national survival rates, yielding a new quotient of …. 5%!!! (17,500 + 1,749 = 19,249 / 350,000 = 5%) Therefore, when we look at a societal problem such as SCA, far-and-away America’s greatest killer and one that is preventable in most cases (studies indicate with early defibrillation survival rates can exceed 70%), we mustn’t be concerned with national averages unless we’re also prepared to weigh the humanistic reality of the numbers – the numerator. Regularly speaking with SCA Survivors gives me strong reason to believe that they’d like to be counted as more than 0.00028% or a part of the Numerator in a division problem. So I ask, are the daily SCA saves meaningful and are AED units and wide-spread CPR training making a difference or are they irrelevant, leaving the national averages “unchanged?”

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