September 2, 2014

Ogemaw County paramedic hopes teaching free CPR classes will help cut down on cardiac arrest deaths

File Photo
Mike Bowers talks to the crowd after being presented with the Medical Response Award during the 2010 Red Cross Salute to Everyday Heroes event.

Posted by Eric Young
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OGEMAW COUNTY — The moments between a person going into cardiac arrest and the arrival of paramedics can be critical toward the survival of the victim, according to Ogemaw County Paramedic and Course Coordinator for Pre-Hospital Medicine Mike Bowers. 

“It can be seven to 10 minutes before the paramedics arrive on scene (after calling 911),” Bowers said. “If blood isn’t flowing, even if we get pulses back, there’s nothing left in the brain to sustain life. There can be so much damage in seven or eight minutes that there is nothing left to sustain functional life.”

Because of that, Bowers has deciding to start a free program to teach people how to perfume hands-only CPR. 

“The goal is everybody from 7 to 70,” he said. “I specifically have taken on the idea of doing it for everyone in Northeast Michigan. I want everyone from ages 7 to 70 to learn hands-only CPR. It would make a huge difference in saving lives in Northern Michigan.”

Bowers said sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. today. 

“With that said, it can happen anywhere from teenagers … up to the 70-, 80-year-old person who is sitting in their chair watching TV and dies. And everywhere in between.”

Bowers said statistics show people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest have a 3 percent chance of survival. 

“We have a lot of documentation from studies that shows with an advanced bystander program, it is increased to a 30 to 50 percent chance,” he said. “From 3 percent to 30 percent. That’s 10 times the chance increases of surviving sudden cardiac arrest.”

And Bowers said he has a technique that he believes will teach people how to perform hands-only CPR in only 10 minutes. 

“The reason for that is because everyone is busy,” he said. “No one has time. No one wants to spend money and go to special meetings. If I can put together a program that only took me 10 minutes to teach, I could probably get just about any group of people to take 10 minutes at the beginning of their meeting, and they would know how to do it.”

He said people don’t have to do anything special.

“They don’t have to buy anything,” he said. “The learning process is extremely simple and basic. I teach them to do chest compressions to the Bee Gees’ ‘Staying Alive.’”

He said the Ogemaw County EMS is sponsoring the program and helping him out. EMS Director Shirley Buck said she was happy to have Bowers as part of her team.

“He has so much passion for what he does,” she said. “And educating people is everything for him. He is an asset to have.”

“We’re going to do up little cards,” Buck added. “People will get recognized for it. We don’t want people to look at it as being scary.”

Bowers said he plans to kick the program off May 10 at Whittemore-Prescott during an assembly prior to prom. 

“I’m going to do this program for all 300 students and faculty,” Bowers said. “I picked Whittemore-Prescott because both of my boys went to school there. I’m familiar with it. It’s home. I felt like it was a comfortable, safe place to start something. I’ve never done anything this big before.”

He said he intends to contact Ogemaw Heights High School if all goes well at W-P and set something up prior to the end of the school year. He also hopes to give his presentation to other groups throughout the area.

“I’m hoping some people will want to do this themselves for groups,” he said. “This is really, truly about people getting the knowledge of doing chest compressions. That is the only goal with this project.”

Bowers said the idea for this program is three years in the making. He said he went to a conference three years ago where there was a motivational speaker. 

“He motivated me to take another step,” Bowers said. “This is where you are, but everyone has one more step in them”

Bowers said he communicated with the motivational speaker the last three years through the internet. 

Then, last March, there was a lot of discussion of CPR at another conference, and bystander statistics and the difference people are making throughout the country. 

“A couple weeks later, I worked a cardiac arrest,” Bowers said. “We got pulses back for this person. We got pulses back four times in the process. But there was no CPR for seven to eight minutes prior to our arrival because family members didn’t know how We have EMS dispatch, and they do a great job instructing, but an emergency is not the time for initial contact with it.”

“I feel if we had a program like this well established a year or two ago, there would be a good chance this person would be with us today. And I’m the person who needs to step up and do it. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. All the things fell in line together. I woke up one day and I looked at my wife and said I was going to do this, what do you think? She said I was crazy, but she told me to go for it. Shirley (Buck) said I was crazy, but she would support it.”

Bowers said he saw a huge need for CPR education.

“Just in Ogemaw County we can save 10 lives a year,” he said. “There are people who are dying every day and have been since 1994 when I started doing this.”

Bowers asked that people not contact him about bringing the program to them until after May 10. After that date, he said they can email him at mjbowers623@yahoo.com.

“This is just the start,” he said. “Shirley and I want to expand our education programs once this new building is put in place. Both for the professional and the public, we want to expand our education programs and safety. This is really just the beginning of where we want to go.”

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