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Latest research reveals strong bystander intervention rates amongst Victorians

March 23, 2022 | in News

Bihan Weerakoon (middle) experienced a cardiac arrest during a game of cricket. Together with him are MICA Paramedic Helena Cannon (left), Ryan Chapple (right), and Endeavour Hills cricket players who came to his aid and saved his life.

New research from Ambulance Victoria has revealed a large number of community members are stepping up to help save lives when it comes to cardiac arrest.

The Victorian Ambulance Cardiac Arrest Registry (VACAR) 2020-2021 Annual Report showed that when members of the public witnessed a cardiac arrest, 77% of people were willing to start life-saving CPR.

The report also revealed a record number of cardiac arrests between July 2020 and June 2021 across the state, with paramedics attending 6,934 cases, a 2.5% increase on the year before.

Along with a willingness to start CPR, a growing number of Victorians are accessing public defibrillators (AEDs) before paramedics arrive, further boosting patients’ chances of survival.

Oakleigh cricket player Ryan Chapple (right) started doing chest compression when Bihan collapsed in the change rooms after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Melbourne father of two Bihan (“B”) Weerakoon is one of the 194 lucky Victorians alive today thanks to the life-saving efforts of bystanders.
The 39-year-old was playing cricket for Endeavour Hills last year when he started to feel unwell, collapsing in the change rooms after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Despite being fierce rivals on the field, it was Oakleigh player Ryan Chapple who stepped up to help, ultimately saving B’s life.

“I heard what had happened and I just ran, and started doing chest compressions on B,” Ryan said.

“Someone had called Triple Zero (000) and at same time another player raced to get an AED that was at the grounds.”

The AED delivered one shock and it was shortly after that B grabbed Ryan’s hands.

“I couldn’t believe we’d got him back, but it wasn’t until the paramedics arrived that I felt like it was going to be OK,” Ryan said.

B was transported to Monash Medical Centre Clayton where he underwent triple bypass surgery.

He has made a full recovery and is back playing basketball and cricket.

“I feel very lucky that I’m still here for my family,” B said.

“And for what Ryan did that day- we’ve always been pretty competitive clubs, but this has changed things, it’s more of a brotherhood now.”

Bystander intervention is critical when every minute matters.

Ambulance Victoria First Responder and Community Programs Manager Mike Ray said B’s survival reinforces the importance of bystander intervention.

“We know that minutes matter in a cardiac arrest and that if a person receives bystander CPR and defibrillation, their chance of survival increases by more than 70 per cent,” Mr Ray said.

The latest VACAR report also shows an overall survival rate of nine per cent (624), down slightly on previous years, however this can be attributed to impacts of COVID-19.

“As Victorians have spent more time at home due to the pandemic, we have seen a decrease in arrests occurring in public locations and, consequently, a slight decrease in use of publicly accessible AEDs,” Mr Ray said.

“These last couple of years have been very challenging due to the pandemic but we can still proudly say that Victoria has one of the best cardiac survival rates in the world.”

The report also reveals an average emergency response time of 8.2 minutes from the Triple Zero call with most patients defibrillated in just over 10 minutes.

Of cardiac arrest cases, 66 per cent were male and 34 per cent female, with 79 per cent occurring inside the home.

With more Victorians suffering cardiac arrest, Mr Ray said AV’s GoodSAM Responder program had never been more important.

“GoodSAM is a life-saving smartphone app that connects Victorians in cardiac arrest with volunteers who are willing to start CPR and use an AED in the critical minutes before paramedics arrive,” Mr Ray said.

“We were thrilled to sign up more than 1000 extra GoodSAM Responders last year, meaning we now have more than 15,000 volunteers willing to help us save lives across the state.”

Since 2018, more than 55 lives have been saved thanks to the actions of GoodSAM Responders.

To find out more about GoodSAM, visit heartrestarter.com.au.

The VACAR report is available here.