Dr C: “Don’t be scared to try CPR”

Women are dy­ing be­cause peo­ple fear life-sav­ing chest com­pres­sions are too awk­ward. Dr C says to go for it

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Ac­cord­ing to A a re­cent re­port, women are less likely to get CPR from a by­stander be­cause peo­ple are too fright­ened to touch them – ei­ther for fear of in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ness or in­jury.


I can un­der­stand why it feels in­ti­mate to put your hands on some­body’s chest and your mouth over theirs. As med­i­cal stu­dents, we had to strad­dle pa­tients in their hospi­tal beds to give CPR – and we found that in­cred­i­bly awk­ward, so I do gen­uinely ap­pre­ci­ate the em­bar­rass­ment, but that’s no rea­son not to try to save their life! You don’t need to strad­dle any­body, you can per­form CPR from be­side them. By giv­ing CPR you can dou­ble or triple some­one’s odds of sur­viv­ing. The re­port also found peo­ple worry breasts get in the way when per­form­ing CPR, but they re­ally don’t, and you don’t need to un­dress some­body to do it, ei­ther.


Women fear caus­ing in­jury. You may crack a rib, doc­tors reg­u­larly do when they per­form CPR be­cause you have to push the chest down by five to six cen­time­tres, so frag­ile ribs could crack, but that’s fine. Given the choice be­tween death or a cracked rib, there’s no con­test.


When asked why they wouldn’t give CPR, peo­ple also ad­mit­ted that they thought women could be over­drama­tis­ing or faking health in­ci­dents. That’s terrible. Peo­ple also think of heart at­tacks as a male prob­lem, so might as­sume a woman has fainted. You don’t need to work out the cause of some­one col­laps­ing, just help! If they are un­re­spon­sive, check for a pulse and to see if they’re breath­ing. If they’re not, shout for some­one to call 999. I’ve given CPR in pub­lic and peo­ple panic and freeze, so take con­trol and be bossy – yell for some­body to call the am­bu­lance so you can help. Gen­tly tilt their head back and lift the chin. Look for chest move­ment and lis­ten for breath­ing, if there’s none, kneel be­side them, put the heel of your hand in the cen­tre of their chest, the heel of the other hand on top, fin­gers in­ter­laced. Press down hard ver­ti­cally 30 times, to the beat of Stay­ing Alive – keep­ing your hands in place through­out. Af­ter 30, pinch their nose, seal your lips around their mouth and give two breaths. See Nhs.uk/video/pages/vin­niejones-how-to-per­form-cpr. aspx for a video. Never avoid giv­ing life-sav­ing first aid out of shy­ness. It’s too im­por­tant.

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