The likely-hood of being involved in any medical emergency is often slim at best, many individuals will go about their lives never having dealt with any type of medical event. Although this may be a rare occurrence, by having first aid knowledge and skill you are greatly increasing your chances of successfully aiding an individual if they suddenly become unwell, or suffer a cardiac arrest. What is a cardiac arrest? This is when the heart stops beating for whatever reason, and it’s a condition which often leads to the death of the individual. The cardiac arrest scenario is one which you’ll typically see on medical drama programs where they are doing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and shocking them with a defibrillator. These dramatised resuscitation attempts are often littered with inaccuracies and mistakes, however you get the idea of what a cardiac arrest is.
So what do you do if an individual were to collapse in front of you suffering from a cardiac arrest, first it’s important not to panic. By panicking you are losing control of what to do and this will not provide any help for the individual. Make sure you are in a safe environment. Do not approach your patient if they are in a dangerous predicament, for example, they’ve collapsed in the middle of a busy road. Ensure that the environment and settings allow for a safe approach so that you don’t become a casualty yourself. If it is impossible to approach the patient, the call 999. If it is safe to approach, try to make contact with the individual. Once contact has been made but they are unresponsive, check to see if they are breathing or have a pulse. You can do this by leaning over their mouths and listening for breath, and by feeling for a pulse by the wrist. If you haven’t done so already, you need to call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
You will need to begin chest compression’s, the location for this is at the centre of the chest. Ensure that the patient is on their back and on a hard surface, place a flat palm atop the centre of the chest and interlock your other hand on top of it. The centre of the chest is where the sternum is located, or often anatomically land-marked in-between the nipples. You will need to begin chest compression’s, do this by pushing down into the chest at a depth of 5-6 cm’s. After pushing down allow the chest to recoil fully, then push down again. Continue this cycle at a rate of 100-120 compression’s per minute, so around 2 every second. Depending where you are, there may be an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby. These are often located in shopping centres and town halls, there are often many public initiatives raising money to fund AED placements in public places. Ask passers by if they are able to run and find an AED. If you are able to find one, open the pack and there will be clear instructions on how to use it. If possible try to keep someone doing CPR on the chest at all times, any time off the chest will allow for irreversible damage to be at it’s maximum to the body. The same goes for when you start to feel tired, ineffective CPR will also hinder the resuscitation attempt. If passers by are willing, try to alternate CPR every 2 minutes. Give them clear instruction on how to do CPR.
In the AED there will b two pads with a picture of where to place them, one goes on the upper right chest, the other on the far left side of chest. By turning the AED on, it will talk you through the use of the device. It may ask you to stop CPR so that it can analyse the rhythm, once it’s analysed it will advise to shock or continue CPR. If you are shocking, ensure nobody is touching the patient and that it is safe to do so. Continue doing CPR and following the advice of the AED until help arrives. By doing CPR and using an AED if available you are greatly increasing the chance of success for the patient.