Sav­ing a life is easy as ABC

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

As we es­cape to the beaches, the bush, the baches this sum­mer, a few of us won’t make it back alive. Drown­ings, heart at­tacks and chok­ing on that meat you should have cut up a bit more will all take their toll on the sum­mer tribe. The tragedy is that some lives could have been saved if peo­ple knew CPR. The big­gest rea­son peo­ple don’t do CPR is that they are wor­ried they may get it wrong. Well, you can’t get it more wrong than not do­ing it at all. One of the of­ten-asked ques­tions we ask in the Emer­gency Depart­ment when some­one has been brought in post-car­diac ar­rest or a drowning is: What was the down­time? That’s the length of time be­tween col­lapse and CPR be­ing started. Our brains need oxy­gen and our hearts pump the blood that car­ries it. So, the aim of car­dio (heart) pul­monary (lungs) re­sus­ci­ta­tion (CPR) is to get oxy­gen to the lungs and start the heart, ei­ther man­u­ally by chest com­pres­sions and/or jump start­ing it with elec­tric­ity, a de­fib­ril­la­tor. If your heart stops it’s ei­ther an elec­tri­cal or a plumb­ing prob­lem. The place­ment of de­fib­ril­la­tors in the com­mu­nity has made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to peo­ple sur­viv­ing car­diac ar­rest. Do­ing CPR will keep the blood go­ing to the rest of your body un­til the de­fib­ril­la­tor ar­rives. It can then hope­fully be used to restart the heart to pump it­self. For ev­ery minute you don’t get a de­fib on, you lose about 10 per cent sur­viv­abil­ity, so time is crit­i­cal. It’s also crit­i­cal to get CPR started

By do­ing a course and know­ing CPR you will make a dif­fer­ence.

straight away to get the blood flow­ing.

St John Am­bu­lance has a great CPR app you can down­load, but it’s a good idea to do a course – you may save some­one’s life, and they may save yours. ABC stands for Air­way, Breath­ing and CPR, 30 chest com­pres­sions for ev­ery two breaths. Make sure the air­way (mouth and throat) are clear, check for breath­ing and then if no response or breath­ing com­mence the chest com­pres­sions and mouth to mouth, 30 com­pres­sions, two breaths. Aim for be­tween 100 and 120 com­pres­sions per minute.

By do­ing a course and know­ing CPR you will make a dif­fer­ence. Imag­ine be­ing at a beach and not be­ing able to save a drowning child be­cause you had been too busy to do a course. What if some­one you love didn’t make it be­cause none of the peo­ple around them know CPR? Be­fore hav­ing a heart at­tack, about 80 per cent of peo­ple have symp­toms such as chest pain or short­ness of breath.

Call­ing an am­bu­lance is vi­tal early on. I was at a con­fer­ence in Welling­ton speaking once when some­one col­lapsed on the stairs. I got to him within two min­utes and be­gan CPR. The de­fib, which is au­to­matic (you place the pads on and it tells you what to do), at the venue ar­rived two min­utes later. We de­liv­ered three shocks. The am­bu­lance ar­rived 10 min­utes later and the pa­tient made a full re­cov­ery, thanks to the paramedics’ care.

At­tend­ing a car­diac ar­rest in the com­mu­nity as an ED doc­tor makes you feel naked – you are with­out your ma­chines, other staff, crash trol­leys and gad­gets. How­ever, the train­ing kicks in and you stay calm be­cause pan­ick­ing never saved any­one, it makes it worse.


What if some­one you love didn’t make it be­cause none of the peo­ple around them knew CPR?

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