Save a life by staying alive

By Dr. David Kaminskas

You’re out shopping at your favorite mall with your kids and an elderly man about 30 yards away suddenly falls to the floor and is unresponsive. A crowd quickly gathers around him to see if he needs help but nobody is actually doing anything. You sprint over to the man and try to rouse him but he is unconscious and turning blue. You feel for a pulse and can’t find one. You ask the bystanders: “Has anyone called 911?” A young lady says she has them on the phone right now. You then ask: “Does anyone know CPR?” Deafening silence is the answer you get. Your kids look at you and say: “Do something!” It’s up to you. New recommendations now make it easier for witnesses to help a victim of cardiac arrest and maybe be a hero.

The American Heart Association recently published a Guideline Update for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. The truth is that when someone suddenly collapses in cardiac arrest most bystanders are not trained in CPR. Although you may not really know how to do it, most bystanders do have a pretty good idea of what it entails. That includes mouth-to-mouth resuscitation — right? Let’s be honest now, what’s the first word you just thought of — “yuck!” So, I have some great news for all you untrained bystanders. You just need to pump on the chest. The recommendation now is to do compression only CPR for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims if you are untrained in CPR. It turns out that there is plenty of oxygen in the blood already during a sudden cardiac arrest and you do not have to do mouth-to-mouth to have a successful outcome. Rescuers should lock their hands together over the sternum and perform chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute. The depth of the compressions should be a minimum of two inches and a maximum of 2.4 inches (realizing that you might not get this exactly right — do your best). I know what many readers are thinking now. That compression rate is awfully fast. How do I know I am in that 100-120 per minute rate? Well, we all probably love the Bee Gees, so it is time to bring back one of their biggest hits ever — “Stayin’ Alive.”

“Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, you’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin,’ and we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha stayin’ alive.”

Now just concentrate on the last two lines and you will be doing chest compressions at just the right speed. I’m not really suggesting you sing it (probably inappropriate) but play it in your head as you’re doing CPR. Now, for you reading this who are appalled by a little humor in this serious situation, I do apologize, but we can all celebrate when this man or woman is living a fruitful life once again.

There are a few other suggestions that we should think of as well. If this occurs in a public place, like my example above, there is a good chance that there is an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) available. Send someone to get it, open it up and follow the directions. Do NOT stop chest compressions until it tells you to “clear.” Most cardiac arrests are caused from sudden ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation and one shock could very well save them.

It is also now recommended to use social media to summon qualified rescuers. If you are a bystander, after someone calls 911, send out a Tweet or make a post on Facebook — there could be a medic, nurse or doctor right around the corner that could help. … Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

Posted on February 16, 2016, to: