A Kaiser Permanente physician advocates for basic CPR training in schools after CPR helped her young son survive sudden cardiac arrest. Pictured above, Suchada Nopachai, MD, poses with her son and the firefighters who helped save his life.
Suchada Nopachai, MD, has devoted countless hours over the last 3 years to ensuring more people learn basic CPR skills. Dr. Nopachai is a physician at Kaiser Permanente San Jose, but her passion for CPR training is deeply personal.
In February of 2014, her then 4-year-old son, Alex, collapsed on a playground from sudden cardiac arrest.
After calling 9-1-1, Dr. Nopachai started CPR, and when firefighters arrived, they continued. The ambulance rushed Alex to Kaiser Permanente San Jose where his care team successfully restarted his heart. His physicians said the CPR that kept Alex’s oxygenated blood circulating to his brain made all the difference in his survival and his return to a normal life.
Once it was clear that Alex was recovering well, Dr. Nopachai began advocating for basic CPR training in schools. Her biggest victory came last September, when she helped California Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) pass a state law requiring that students learn basic CPR in high school health classes beginning in the 2018/2019 school year.
Look InsideKP Northern California spoke with Dr. Nopachai about her advocacy work, which she described as “exciting, uplifting, and inspirational.”
How did you become involved in advocating for CPR training?
I met with the San Jose firefighters who helped save Alex. They told me that most people don’t survive cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting and that bystanders often lack CPR training. Talking to them opened my eyes. I knew I needed to do something to save lives.
I started by writing a resolution that was passed by the California Medical Association House of Delegates. It called for all K-through-12 school teachers and all high school students to be trained in basic CPR. After I started speaking with members of the state legislature about the issue, I learned that Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona was introducing a bill. As soon as his bill came out, I started working with his office, writing letters to committee members, and I went up to Sacramento to lobby for the bill.
When the bill passed, I was so excited. It doesn’t include the mandatory CPR training for teachers that I hoped for, but it’s a step forward, and I know we’ll eventually get there.
Describe basic or hands-only CPR training.
Hands-only CPR is chest compressions, pushing hard and fast on the center of a person’s chest. It does not include rescue breathing.
Researchers have found that when people perform chest compressions only, the outcomes are the same, if not better, than conventional CPR and bystanders are more willing to help in this way.
What else have you been working on?
I worked with Emergency Medical Services in my county, Santa Clara, to update the medication paramedics use to treat cardiac arrest so they’re in line with American Heart Association recommendations. I also worked with our leadership at Kaiser Permanente San Jose to offer infant CPR kits and one-on-one infant CPR instruction for new moms with babies who were born prematurely or have a serious medical condition. We know of 2 new moms who successfully used CPR on their infants after receiving this important training.
How does your advocacy work relate to your work for Kaiser Permanente?
I feel it’s an extension of my work as a physician, another way to improve the health of my patients and members of our community.
Sometimes when I see families, I think, those kids are going to learn CPR. And I know if those kids need to use CPR, it will most likely be used to save a family member. It feels good knowing that I helped make a difference.
Learn more about hands only CPR training from the American Heart Association.