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North Georgia Heart Foundation to kick off 'Raise the 8' campaign Friday
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Each year, about 365,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest outside the safety of a hospital.

In North Georgia, only 8 percent of those who experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive.

The North Georgia Heart Foundation is working to change the area’s low survival rate through a campaign called “Raise the 8.”

“The purpose of the campaign is to increase awareness and the availability and distribution of automated external defibrillators in businesses around North Georgia,” said Daniel Thompson, North Georgia Heart Foundation executive director. “The reason for that is the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests here is about 8 percent.”

Thompson said this low survival rate is not standard in the United States. In Seattle, the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rate is more than 60 percent.

He credited such communities with taking an “aggressive stance” to educate and prepare its citizens in the event of cardiac arrest. That’s where Georgia is currently lacking, he said.

“It’s really scary when you think about it and all the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease,” Thompson said. “Georgia is kind of in a ‘stroke belt,’ so we have higher-than-average rates of obesity, blood pressure, diabetes and so forth. So our population really needs to be educated and aware that this can happen at any time and it happens about 1,000 times a day in the United States.”

The heart foundation is asking local businesses to help raise the local survival rate by joining the campaign. Participation includes purchase of an AED for the business, organization or home; staff training in hands-only CPR and use of the defibrillator; and a tax-deductible donation to the foundation to put another AED in an emergency responder vehicle, church or place of public gathering.

Currently, there is no requirement in Georgia for schools, churches, community-based nonprofits, government buildings or businesses to have an AED on site.

“Approximately, four out of five cardiac arrests happen outside of the hospital,” said Dr. Jeffrey Marshall, founder of the foundation and a cardiologist with The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, in a release. “Effective hands-only CPR and the use of an AED immediately after cardiac arrest can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival.”

The foundation will kick off the campaign in a private event Friday at Turner, Wood & Smith. The Gainesville insurance firm is the first business to join Raise the 8.

Rob Fowler, executive vice president and partner at the firm, and a board member of the heart foundation, said the firm is proud to be the first partner and to invest in the safety of its employees.

For more information or to participate on the campaign, visit pulseoftomorrow.org or call 678-717-3648.

“The most valuable asset you have is your employees,” Thompson said. “For an employee to not be able to work for a period of time because of a preventable condition, or even a situation in which you could have done something to save that person, it’s something businesses need to do to make sure their employees are prepared in the event something happens to a fellow employee or to a customer.

“But this campaign serves a purpose outside work as well. The employees can be trained in hands-only CPR, and then know what to do in the event that a loved one suffers sudden cardiac arrest at home. They can act to save that life.”

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