If you saw someone collapse, would you know what to do? Learn hands-only CPR

Published on Thursday, August 4, 2016

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Christina Freeman, R.N.

Christina Freeman, R.N.

Enlarge photo

By Christina Freeman, R.N.

The American Heart Association tells us that more than 326,000 people experience a sudden cardiac arrest each year. What if your loved one collapses from cardiac arrest? Will you know what to do?

In a cardiac arrest, the person has no heartbeat, and no blood supply to the brain, lungs and other organs. He or she is clinically dead and will remain so unless someone helps immediately. Bystander hands-only CPR on a teen or adult can be the lifesaving difference. This is even truer if you are at the lake or the beach or hiking on a mountain, where professional help may be a little farther away. Somebody must do something.

The first step is always to call 911. The 911 dispatcher will send EMS immediately and be able to give advice on what to do. Always call 911 right away.

The second step is to start CPR. Without immediate CPR by a bystander, family or friend, almost 90 percent of cardiac arrest victims die. The good news is that you have the power in your two hands to change that.

Hands-only CPR is easy to learn. The American Heart Association, EMS, police, firemen and hospitals want it to be easy; that way, more people will feel empowered to do it.

Compressions are the most important thing in the first few minutes. Hands-only CPR allows you to focus on just the compressions: push hard and fast in the center of the chest. If you don’t see an immediate training opportunity in your community, you can order an instructional kit with an inflatable “Annie” CPR dummy and a DVD on the AHA website at www.CPR.Heart.Org. There are also videos on the site. You can learn on your own, or your family and friends can learn together. Consider it part of getting ready for that trip or vacation.

Even more important, research has shown that hands-only CPR is effective. Hands-only chest compressions work by circulating oxygen that is already in the bloodstream. A teen or adult who was breathing normally before cardiac arrest has enough oxygen in the bloodstream to sustain life for several minutes – but only if it is circulated by a beating heart or by chest compressions.

Many people worry they’ll do something wrong or hurt the affected person. Remember, this person has no chance of survival if someone doesn’t do something quickly. Something is definitely better than nothing. Doing something means calling 911 and starting hands-only CPR and giving someone a chance to survive.

About Christina Freeman, R.N.

From her base at GHS’ nationally-recognized Chest Pain Center, Christina Freeman helps coordinate the elaborate and multi-partner systems of care provided to chest pain and heart attack patients across all GHS hospitals. With more than 20 years’ experience in cardiovascular nursing, she is passionate about helping South Carolinians achieve better heart health through education, good medical care and, of course, early CPR. Christina Freeman, R.N.


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