Each morning, my exercise routine includes a series of Pilates, yoga and core exercises performed in my condo living room. Because I am still half asleep, I use the television news to keep me motivated and awake. Most of the time it rouses me and I learn something new and interesting.
The local morning news always has a segment from a reporter who travels the D. C. metropolitan area to find inspiring activities occurring in a local community. On a recent morning, she was at a town fair to report on Hands on CPR training. Given that I am aware that CPR stands for Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation I figured I should pay extra special attention. Of course, my implanted defibrillator is my very own personal safeguard for cardiac emergencies. But it is always good to learn about measures that I might be able to use to provide aid to others.
So when the camera turned to the local reporter presenting the segment, I saw that she was standing by a fireman from the local fire department. He was monitoring a little girl pumping her hands fast and furiously on the cardiac dummy that had been provided for the training. This technique she was performing is also known as chest compressions. It is not often that I see an adult actually practicing Hands on CPR, much less a child. But the diligence and commitment that the little girl was displaying convinced me that if I was going into cardiac arrest, she would be one of the first people I would pick to save my life.
Imagine my surprise when they announced that the little girl was only 6 years old! I was even more surprised to learn that she had been doing the hands on CPR with vigor and determination for one hour and continued to be performing it really well. I wish I had her energy and drive! I also thought that we had the makings of a great public service announcement: “Save a life with a technique so easy that even a child can do it!”
I think many of us who have heard of the term CPR may be a little confused. The technique we are familiar with includes not only chest compressions but also involves breathing into the victim’s mouth. But if you notice, the technique that the 6 year old performed did not include breathing into the mouth of the dummy. So is it possible that Hands-Only CPR might be less daunting to perform and even lead to an increase in bystanders taking action in a cardiac emergency?
According to a brochure issued by AHA, the answer is yes. Most Americans (70 percent) feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they’re afraid of hurting the victim. According to the American Heart Association: “People who perform hands on CPR are more likely to remember the correct pace when trained to the beat of the disco classic “Stayin’ Alive" or another familiar song with 100 to 120 beats per minute – the rate you should push on the chest during CPR.”
When I read this brochure, a light went on in my head. I was a fan of the 1970’s Disco movie “Saturday Night Fever” which featured the Bee Gees hit “Staying Alive”. I seem to remember hearing the song during a public service announcement at some point telling us that we needed to learn the hands only CPR technique. But I never followed up on the advice.
So how can you learn Hands on CPR and traditional CPR? If you go to the website heart.org/handsonly cpr, which is sponsored by the American Heart Association, you can find a video to help you learn the steps of hands on CPR.
The AHA tells us that with 70 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happening at home, if you’re called on to perform Hands Only CPR, you’ll likely be trying to save the life of someone you know and love. Hands Only CPR carried out by a bystander has been shown to be as effective as CPR with breaths in the first few minutes during an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest for an adult victim.
An August 2, 2010 article on the CNN website supports what the AHA says:
According to the Mayo Clinic website “CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until more definitive medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm. When the heart stops, the lack of oxygenated blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes. A person may die within eight to 10 minutes.” In fact, the AHA website indicates that immediate CPR can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest.
If you want to learn traditional CPR, then you need to log onto the website heart.org/cpr to find a class online or a class near you. Of course another organization which comes to mind when I think about CPR training is the Red Cross. If you go to their website, you can enter your location and find a convenient CPR class. Some appear to be offered by the Red Cross and some by other vendors. But if the Red Cross has a course listed on their website, I would believe that it is a reputable course. For my location, there were 379 classes listed in the DC/Virginia/Maryland metropolitan area.
The Red Cross also realizes that despite having training and certification, in an emergency one may be a bit intimidated about jumping in to do CPR. But the Red Cross also offers this tip on their website: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help save a life during a cardiac or breathing emergency. However, even after training, remembering the CPR steps and administering them correctly can be a challenge. In order to help you help someone in need, we've created this simple step-by-step guide that you can print up and place on your refrigerator, in your car, in your bag or at your desk. You can find this resource by looking for CPR Steps when you get to the Red Cross website.
For those who are leery about learning or performing CPR, the Consumer Reports website had this interesting fact: Thanks to good Samaritan laws enacted in every state, you can’t be sued if you act in good faith in an emergency. “And the risk of injuring someone is quite low—you can really only make them better, not worse,” says Jonathan L. Epstein, senior director of science and content development for the American Red Cross. And repeating something already covered in this post, the website also offers the recommendation that Hands Only CPR can be just as effective as doing chest compressions and mouth to mouth resuscitation together. In fact, the article on-line where I found these facts was entitled “Your Guide to the New, Smarter CPR”.
A February 2018 article on the Cleveland Clinic Website also addresses the CPR that involves just chest compressions:
The article also spotlighted how ignorant we are about steps that could save our lives if we are having a heart attack or cardiac arrest:
So you may want to do some reading up on the symptoms of heart attacks, cardiac arrest as well as strokes, so that you can recognize that you may be suffering from one of these life threatening conditions.
And like me, you may just want to visit the AHA website and look for the page on Hands Only CPR. If a six year old can perform this technique, we should also jump on the bandwagon so that we can help those in an emergency keep on “stayin alive”.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.