While I was browsing the produce section of my grocery store the other day, the sound of a panicked voice coming over the store’s loudspeaker made me jump. “Does anyone in the store know CPR? Anyone? CPR? We need you in baked goods!”
I froze. In theory, I know how to perform CPR — cardiopulmonary resuscitation. I took a two-hour course on it nearly 25 years ago. But I hadn’t given it much thought since then and I certainly hadn’t practiced what I learned.
My mind started whirling as I tried to remember the sequence of steps. They’d changed the rules a few years back — I knew that much — so I wouldn’t have to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But where exactly on the chest was I supposed to push? Should I form a fist and push down with my knuckles, or use the ball of my hand?
Suddenly, sirens wailed outside the store. The rescue squad had arrived. Too late, as I learned afterward, for this man, who was a victim of a sudden cardiac arrest. This type of heart attack strikes so fast that there usually aren’t any warning signs. You might see someone grasp his or her chest, collapse, twitch and gasp a few times, and then lie deathly still.
At that point, every minute counts. Enough oxygen remains in the person’s bloodstream to nourish the brain for several minutes — but a bystander has to circulate oxygenated blood to the brain and other organs by pushing down on the chest hard and fast, mimicking the heartbeat.
I’m a health writer. I knew this intellectually. But until those agonizing moments in the grocery store, I never really understood on a gut level just how important every minute is. Read more »
How fast does sudden cardiac arrest cause unconsciousness? In just seconds.
Here’s a video of Salamanca soccer player Miguel Garcia’s episode. At the start of the video, Mr. Garcia can be seen in the background of the image kneeling behind the players in the foreground. Watch carefully as he stands after tying his shoes.
Although it is difficult to see, it appears an automatic external defibrillator arrives in about two minutes, though given the fact his shirt is still on as he’s taken from the field, we note the device is on his gurney as he’s hurried to a nearby ambulance. Reportedly, he survived this sudden cardiac arrest event:
This was NOT a heart attack, but rather a loss of cardiac function caused by a rapid, often disorganized heart rhythm disorder. Compare the relatively long time to resuscitation using an external automatic defibrillator verses the very rapid response afforded to Belgian soccer player Anthony Van Loo, whose internal defibrillator was already installed before he played as primary prevention of sudden death from right ventricular dysplasia.
-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.
Nearly 450 people die each day of sudden cardiac arrest. Many times the bystanders who witness a person collapse don’t know what to do. They are afraid they will hurt the victim or they feel nervous about doing traditional cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest compressions.
New information published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) shows that hands-only CPR is potentially a lifesaving option to be used and it can improve the chance of survival equally as well as traditional CPR. This study confirms other reports that bystanders can save lives by doing chest compressions in adults and children who are not breathing. Read more »
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