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National CPR and AED Awareness Week 2024 – Lifesaving Through the Ages: A Brief History of CPR

National CPR and AED Awareness Week 2024

National CPR and AED Week, observed annually during the first week of June, is a dedicated time to spotlight the crucial importance of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training in saving lives. This week serves to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrests, which claim thousands of lives each year, and to educate the public on the lifesaving skills that can make a significant difference in emergencies. By promoting widespread training and understanding of CPR and AED use, National CPR and AED Week aims to empower individuals to act swiftly and effectively in critical situations, ultimately increasing survival rates and fostering a safer, more prepared community.

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What is CPR?

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. This technique combines chest compressions with artificial ventilation to manually preserve intact brain function and maintain blood circulation throughout the body until further measures can be taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing. Chest compressions help keep the blood flowing, providing oxygen to vital organs, while rescue breaths deliver oxygen directly into the lungs. CPR is essential in cases of cardiac arrest, drowning, or any situation where breathing or heartbeat has stopped, and it significantly increases the chances of survival when performed promptly and correctly.

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What is an AED?

An AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, is a portable medical device designed to quickly and effectively treat sudden cardiac arrest. It analyzes the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, delivers an electric shock to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm. AEDs are user-friendly and equipped with visual and audio prompts to guide even untrained individuals through the process. They are strategically placed in public spaces such as schools, airports, and sports arenas to ensure rapid access during emergencies. The timely use of an AED, combined with CPR, can significantly improve survival rates by restoring the heart’s normal rhythm and stabilizing the patient until professional medical help arrives.

Going back in time to the origins of cPR

You may be surprised how far back the story begins


The Bellows Method was first used by Swiss physician Paracelsus. This was an early form of artificial ventilation that used fireplace bellows to force air into a patient’s lungs through their throat


In Alloa, Scotland, local surgeon William Tossach uses mouth-to-mouth breaths to revive a suffocated coal pit miner. Dr. Tossach documents the success 12 years later in what may be the first clinical description of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in medical literature.


Experimenting with animals, Danish veterinarian Peter Abildgaard discovers that after rendering a chicken lifeless by shocking it, counter shocks to the chest could restore a heartbeat


Henry Silvester, another London physician, creates the chest-pressure arm-lift method: raise the patient’s arms to expand the chest, then cross the arms over the chest to apply expiratory pressure


Dr. Friedrich Maass performed the first documented case of successful CPR using chest compressions to revive a patient who had overdosed on drugs


Six cardiologists met in Chicago to form the American Heart Association (AHA), a professional society for physicians. Nearly a century later, the AHA will be the world leader in CPR and emergency cardiovascular care (ECC) training and education.


After several years of research on closed-chest defibrillation, Dr. Kouwenhoven’s team at Johns Hopkins, which includes James Jude, MD, and Guy Knickerbocker, PhD, unveils its prototype of the first portable external defibrillator


Rescue Annie is born: The life-size training manikin (a collaborative effort by Drs. Safar, Elam, and Gordon and Norwegian toymaker Åsmund Lærdal) goes on to teach CPR skills to more than 400 million people—and counting—worldwide.


St. Francois County Ambulance District is an American Heart Association Authorized Training Center and a leader in CPR and AED training.

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