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Where you live could mean life or death during cardiac arrest

11:02 PM, Nov 4, 2012   |    comments
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A new CU Denver study says the chances of survival are higher in well-to-do white neighborhoods than they are in a poor black neighborhoods.

For Mary Tappe, there was absolutely no warning.

Tappe was just 42 and about to begin a business meeting.

"I sat down and I died. I grabbed my pen and bam my head hit the desk. And I was not breathing. I did not have a pulse. I had suffered sudden cardiac death," Tappe said.

Her coworkers performed CPR and used an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED.

That AED, combined with CPR, saved her life.

Tappe knows, had she collapsed at home, she would have died.

"My children would have come home from school and found their mother dead," Tappe said.

Sudden Cardiac arrest is America's leading killer.

In Denver, one person's heart stops every single day.

CU Denver assistant professor Dr. Comilla Sasson led a team of researchers who found people in poor black neighborhoods are half as likely to get CPR as those in better off white neighborhoods.

Researchers identified 11 neighborhoods in the Denver metro area most in need of CPR training and AEDs.

Those neighborhoods are Harvey Park, Mar Lee, Westwood, Barnum, Villa Park, Washington Virgina Vale, Windsor, North Park Hill, Northeast Park Hill, Stapleton and Montbello.

"We potentially could have saved these lives. We can't just keep saying it's okay for people to die because they live in this neighborhood versus another," Sasson said.

Even which side of the street you live on can make a difference.

Your chances of getting CPR are almost double in South Park Hill, than they are across 23rd street in North Park Hill.

Gwen Wernersbach with the American Red Cross' Save a Life Denver program is working with CU Denver to place AEDs in areas of need.

The program has already placed nearly one-thousand AEDs throughout the metro area and the Red Cross will also offer free CPR training beginning next year.

"Knowing that your schools, and your churches, and your businesses are prepared really helps with peace of mind. Wherever there is foot traffic. Wherever there is a risk for cardiac arrest," Wernersbach said.

Pastor Paul Howard received an AED and CPR training at Montclair United Methodist.

"I'm sleeping better already. Having an aging population, what would we do if an accident were to occur," Howard said.

Almost a decade after her sudden cardiac death, Tappe runs Colorado AED Access for all.

"I thank God every day," Tappe said. "There's no reason whatsoever that we're not in every neighborhood, in every church, in every place of employment."

Tappe wants others to have what she did, a second chance at life.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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