Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to save a life.

Do You Know How to Save a Life?

Here are some sobering facts:
·         Over 600,000 people suffer out of hospital cardiac arrests (their heart stops) outside of hospitals every year, usually in their own homes or work place
·         Once your heart stops, irreversible brain damage happens in 4-6 minutes
·         In most places, it can take longer than 6 minutes, and sometimes 10 minutes or more for EMS and to arrive once 911 is called
·         The survival rate for an out of hospital cardiac arrest is only about 6%
·         Good quality standby CPR can increase survival rates to 50-close to 70%

So what does this mean for you and your family?  That YOU may be the only person who can save the life of your child, spouse, mother, father, friend or even a neighbor or stranger.  It means that the more people who know CPR, the greater the survival rate will be and anyone’s family would be so grateful for the gift you gave them in knowing what to do and acting fast. 

The more people who know how to properly perform CPR, the more lives that can be saved. Every parent, every babysitter, every grandparent and really, any child over the age of 10 ideally should know how to perform CPR and what to do if someone is choking.  Younger children are very capable of learning how to dial 911 and how to open the airway and even perform the Heimlich maneuver or  hands only CPR (more on that later).

So why don’t more people know CPR?  Is it fear of doing it wrong?  Is it that you learned it years ago and it was too confusing or complicated?  Is it the expense of the class?  Is it that you don’t believe it’s really necessary to learn because someone else will do it should the need arise? Are you afraid that you’ll do it wrong?  Are you afraid you’ll hurt the person? 

I promise you, it doesn’t get worse than dead.  I know that’s harsh, but if you are doing CPR, that person is essentially dead and YOU are their best chance of survival. Doing something is better than doing nothing.  If you know how to do CPR, even if you think you’ve forgotten, once you start, it will come back to you.  Especially if you’ve practiced in a class and periodically review the steps.

You should know that unless you are a first responder or mandated by your profession to perform CPR, you always have the option to start or to stop once you are doing CPR for any reason.  If you are uncomfortable initiating CPR, or start and then stop, please at least call 911 and stay with the person until EMS arrives.  It’s OK if you forget how or don’t perform CPR perfectly, the most important thing is to do your best and at the level you’ve been taught. Don’t do what you saw on TV, do what you’ve learned in an actual CPR class.  

If you call 911, the operator will talk you through it; even if you’ve never done CPR before (put your phone on speaker so you can use both hands). You will be more confident and effective if you’ve taken a class and actually practiced on the manikins so you know what it feels like to go through the steps.  Most people learn and remember best by doing.

You might have heard of Hands Only CPR.  This is a campaign to encourage people who are untrained in full CPR or who don’t want to do the mouth to mouth resuscitation how to help people.  It’s most effective in adults and in situations where the person’s collapse was witnessed.  It’s quick and easy.  You can learn more here.

It’s also important to know that the Good Samaritan law protects you from being sued by the person or their family if CPR was unsuccessful, provided you are not a mandated professional.  As long as your intentions were for the greatest good, you are protected.

The good news is CPR is easier than ever to learn!  I’ve known CPR for 28 years. I’ve been an American Heart Association BLS Instructor for over 4 years.  It’s changed several times over the years, most recently in 2010.  The new guidelines were derived from new science and technology that taught those who study the effectiveness of CPR what the most important steps are in the process.  It resulted in a significantly simplified process. Many of the steps have been eliminated.  There are still differences between adults, children and infants but they are fewer and for good reason.  The mantra is now to push hard and push fast in the center of the chest.  The steps to determine if someone needs CPR are quick and easy.  Additional emphasis is now placed on obtaining and using an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).  I promise, you, it’s all easy and you can do it! 

So, if you have learned CPR in the past, good for you!  If it was before 2010, you should definitely take a new class.  If you have never learned before, now’s the time!  Make it a priority on your to do list and vow to learn!  Search for a class near you and sign up!  Search online for the Red Cross or American Heart Association Instructors, contact your local police or fire department to see if they offer instruction or contact local hospitals as they often offer community based classes.  Many places that offer childbirth and parenting classes also offer CPR.  The classes are not expensive and for an hour or two and the cost of a few lunches or instead of your daily coffee drink, you can learn to save a life!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, knowledge is power.  Thinking ‘it’ can’t or won’t happen to you or thinking ‘someone’ else will save your loved one could be the worst mistake you ever make.  No, CPR doesn’t always work.  We don’t always know how long the person has been without a heartbeat or not breathing.  We don’t always know why their heart stopped or why they are not breathing.  Sometimes, no matter what anyone does, including doctors in hospitals, there is nothing that can be done to save a person.  The important thing is that you try.  If no one does anything, the chances of that person surviving are very, very low.  If you don’t know what to do, the chances are by the time EMS arrives, it will be too late. 

Learn to save a life!  It’s as easy as CAB!  Someone, someday, will thank you.

~note~  This was originally written as part of a series of guest blog posts on child safety per the request of Angie at Glorious Imperfections.  I am grateful that she chose "March is for Meghan" as her theme in an effort to help raise awareness of the importance of a safe and secure home for everyone.  

1 comment:

  1. Hello Kimberly, I was shocked to learn that 600,000 people die because of cardiac arrest every year. That much amount of people pretty huge. Thank you for the information. I think everyone should be aware of the live saving methods so that they can help the patient before they reach the hospital.

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