Time is of the essence in medical emergency onboard

Nov 10, 2015 by Keith Murray

Tasked with the safety of everyone onboard, yacht crew are trained how to react in an emergency. Accidents and injuries are easy to identify, and can be tackled.

But what if someone suddenly collapses?

First, make certain the scene is safe to administer aid. The rescuer must make sure that their own personal safety is protected. You can’t help someone else if you are in danger. Make certain there are no hazards, no blood, no hazardous gasses, no electrical hazards, no traffic, etc.

Next, shake the victim and ask “Are you OK?” If the person doesn’t respond and is not breathing or not breathing normally, direct someone to call 911 or to radio for help, and send someone to find an AED – Automated External Defibrillator. Now return to the victim.  

Look at the victim’s chest for about seven seconds. If it is not moving, the victim is not breathing. CPR is required.

There are two ways to perform CPR: the traditional way with 30 compressions and two breaths, and the “new” CPR, which is hands only, eliminating the mouth-to-mouth component. Hands only CPR is easier and safer for the rescuer.

To begin chest compressions, push down in the center of the chest at least 2 inches (on adults) and do not stop. Push hard and fast at the rate of at least 100 compressions per minute. If you remember the disco song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, that song is 100 beats per minute. Sing that song in your head and push to that beat.

Breaking a person’s ribs during CPR is somewhat common. If you hear or feel ribs break, don’t stop. You are trying to save a life and must continue pushing until help arrives or the victim can breathe on his own.

By pushing on someone’s chest, the rescuer acts as their heart, squeezing blood around the body. That precious blood carries oxygen to the brain, preventing brain damage.

Many people think that CPR can bring a person back, but it’s the electrical shock from the AED that get’s the heart beating again. It’s important to know that CPR is not a substitute for defibrillation. CPR just keeps blood flowing until defibrillation can be administered. The best CPR can do is buy the victim time.

So keep pushing until trained personnel or the AED arrives and you are instructed by either to stand clear.

The faster the AED is applied, the better. And don’t worry; the AED will only shock a person if they are in cardiac arrest. AEDs will not shock a patient unless they need it.

Sudden cardiac arrest claims about 350,000 lives each year – nearly 1,000 every day — across the U.S. It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and kills more people than breast cancer, lung cancer and AIDS combined.

Statistically, the odds of surviving sudden cardiac arrest are low, less than 8 percent. That means more than 90 percent of cardiac arrest victims die. The odds of surviving cardiac arrest drop about 10 percent per minute until an AED can be used to shock the heart back to life.  And brain death starts to occur in just four to six minutes after someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest.

However, if defibrillation can be performed within the first 1-3 minutes, there is a 70-90 percent chance of survival. And effective bystander CPR nearly doubles a victim’s chance for surviving.

The key to surviving cardiac arrest is fast CPR, fast defibrillation and fast transport to a hospital.  

Trained as an emergency medical technician, Keith Murray now owns The CPR School, which provides onboard CPR, AED and first-aid training as well as AED sales and service. Contact him through www.TheCPRSchool.com.

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