Last week, one of my neighbors told me that her 32-year-old daughter needed CPR. Often when I hear that cardiopulmonary resuscitation was performed, I learn it was done for the wrong reason and was not really necessary. In this case though, it was required as she was in cardiac arrest.
A lot of people confuse a heart attack with cardiac arrest. An easy way to know if a person has cardiac arrest hinges on whether the person stops breathing. Think of it this way, cardiac means heart and arrest means stop. This young mother’s heart stopped. She was dead.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating.
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked. A heart attack may cause cardiac arrest.
Statistically the odds of surviving sudden cardiac arrest are low, less than eight-percent. Your odds of surviving cardiac arrest drop about 10-percent per minute until an AED (automated external defibrillator) can be used to defibrillate, or shock, you back to life.
This young woman’s doctor started to cry when he was explaining to her parents what had happened. He said that her survival is a miracle because such odds were about one in a million chances. When the woman collapsed, no one knew what to do, her husband did not know how to perform CPR and they did not have an AED.
Fortunately, the 911 operator was able to talk her husband through the steps to perform CPR during the telephone call and emergency medical personnel were quick to respond and immediately defibrillate her.
Following are the steps for performing “hands only CPR”:
Check the victim for responsiveness. If the person is not responsive and not breathing or not breathing normally, call 911 in the United States (or radio for help) and return to the victim. In many locations the emergency dispatcher can assist you with CPR instructions.
Begin chest compressions. Push down in the center of the chest at least two inches (on
adults) and do not stop. Push hard and fast at the rate of at least 100/minute, faster than once per second. Keep doing this until trained personnel arrive, or the AED arrives and you are instructed by the AED to stand clear. Often people say push to the beat of the Bee
Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive”.
There are many resources to learn the basics including these Internet links for two entertaining hands-only CPR videos. Search for the hands-only CPR video link at the British Heart Foundation featuring tough-guy actor Vinnie Jones at www.bhf.org.uk. The video on the American Heart Association features Ken Jeong, a humorous actor from “The Hangover” movies, at www.heart.org.
Two facts from the American Heart Association:
1. Nearly 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States, and 88-percent of cardiac arrests occur at home.
2. Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32-percent of cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from a bystander.
The hands-only CPR method is not a substitute for the traditional CPR with compressions and breathing. It is intended for people untrained in CPR as well as situations when the rescuer is unable or unwilling to provide mouth-to-mouth ventilations.
Keep your crew educated about CPR, AED and first aid. It could save a life, including your own.
Keith Murray, a former firefighter EMT, owns The CPR School, a first-aid training company. He provides onboard training for yacht captains and crew and sells and services AEDs. Contact him at +1-561-762-0500 or keith@theCPRschool.com. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.