‘It takes a system to save a victim': N.H. hospital holds reunion of cardiac arrest survivors, rescuers
40 rescuers in Cheshire County were recognized for their work in saving victims of sudden cardiac arrest
By Tim Bruns
The Keene Sentinel
CHESHIRE COUNTY, N.H. — In 2022, at least 11 people who suffered sudden cardiac arrest in Cheshire County were saved using CPR.
Those survivors and their rescuers — who include bystanders, first responders, 911 dispatchers and medical professionals — were recognized Wednesday night at the second annual Rescuers Reuniting with the Rescued: A Celebration of Survival, at the Best Western in Keene.
Among them was Mason Sauter, a 17-year-old junior firefighter with the Hinsdale Fire Department who has an apprenticeship with Rescue Inc. in Brattleboro, according to his father, Jeremy.
Sauter responded to three of the cardiac arrest calls. He said he took an EMT training class but has to wait until he turns 18 to officially become an emergency medical technician.
The feeling of being recognized at Wednesday’s event, he said, “doesn’t compare to the feeling of knowing that we saved these people’s lives.”
Hosted by Cheshire Medical Center, the event serves as a way not only to recognize the survivors and those who helped them, but also to highlight the importance of improving a patient’s chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest.
“We need people to really know how to recognize cardiac arrest and jump in,” said Dr. Jim Suozzi, associate medical director and EMS medical director at Cheshire Medical.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. And for every minute someone experiencing this medical emergency goes without treatment, Suozzi said their chance of survival drops by 10 percent.
But with a bystander’s help, the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest increases from 10 to 50 percent, according to Kathy Willbarger, Cheshire Medical’s chief operating officer and interim president and CEO.
“This is where we can all make a difference,” she said.
At Wednesday’s event, approximately 40 rescuers were honored, some of whom, like Sauter, responded to multiple calls throughout the year, according to Suozzi.
Sauter said it’s important for members of the public to know how to perform CPR and to raise awareness of this, including through events like this one.
This message was echoed by those who spoke Wednesday night.
“It takes a system to save a victim,” Suozzi said.
Pauline Johansen, a nurse at Cheshire Medical, was the sole survivor to take the podium to talk about her CPR experience.
In 2021, she was raking leaves, preparing to host a brunch for her grandson’s wedding. Suddenly, Johansen said, she was in cardiac arrest.
Two sisters, Emma and Camryn Carey, who happened to be driving by, came to her rescue. Emma performed CPR, while Camryn called 911 and offered support to both of them, according to Johansen.
Emma continued CPR until first responders arrived seven minutes later.
As a nurse, Johansen said she has given CPR to hundreds of patients but never thought she’d need the life-saving measure herself.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find myself on the other end of the defibrillator.”
Keene Fire Lt. Jeremy LaPlante said the department has several ways to make sure its personnel keep their CPR skills sharp.
During training, the department uses a CPR mannequin that can connect to an app on smartphones to give direct feedback on how well they are performing the procedure. It also produces a report sheet that shows how they did.
Science shows hitting 110 compressions per minute is what people should aim for, although anywhere between 100 and 120 compressions per minute is standard, according to LaPlante.
He also said that when performing CPR, the compressions should be between 2 and 2 1/2 inches deep.
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