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
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.
DON’T BE TOO GENTLE
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.
LEARN WHAT TO DO
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.