If someone’s life depended on you to begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), would you be prepared to save a life?
Absolutely, the first response is to dial 911 to mobilize an emergency response. Once the 911 operator answers, the information you give the dispatcher must include the nature of the emergency. If someone appears to be unresponsive, relay that information. If there’s been a trauma, provide a description. Next, give your physical location and what you see. If you don’t know a street number, look for obvious landmarks. If inside a structure, give details – what floor you’re located, identifying items for an apartment door or room. The more details you provide, the better.
Finally, if possible, keep the line with the dispatcher open. Even if you’re involved in giving aid, put your phone on speaker. The dispatcher may provide assistance and guidance.
Understand how critical time is in an emergency when someone is unresponsive. You need a clear airway to breathe, and your heart must pump to push oxygenated blood to tissues throughout your body, especially your brain.
It only takes 30-180 seconds to be without adequate oxygen to lose consciousness. That’s only after about 20 seconds of a heart no longer pumping.
A person may be able to avoid brain damage if they’ve been deprived of oxygen is no more than 4-6 minutes…or 240 to 360 seconds. Serious brain damage occurs beyond 10 minutes.
Once you’ve made the 911 call, look at the person in need. Talk to them, attempt to stir them to respond. If there’s no response, listen for a breath or any air movement from their mouths. If you’re comfortable taking someone’s pulse, you can place your index and middle fingers along the side of their neck or at their wrist. Practice by finding your own with gentle palpation, not pressing.
If you hear no breathing, feel no pulse, and have elicited no response, make sure the person in need is on a flat, preferably firm surface, not a bed or couch. You may need to reposition them to the ground on their back.
Effective chest compressions are your goal to cause external pressure on the heart, essentially doing its job until emergency support arrives.
Effective compressions are achieved by placing your two hands, one on top of the other, heel of the hand touching the unresponsive person, placed between their breasts and on the bone that centers one’s chest. Press down about two inches. Do this at a pace of 100-120 per minute.
It’s good to count a cadence out loud, “One-and-two-and-three-and-four-and…” with the number on the down compression and the “and” on the release.
If you are comfortable, then give two breaths to the person in need that are at least one second in length, allowing their chest to rise. Resume compressions, which are critical, and continue with 30 compressions followed by two breaths in a repeated cycle until Emergency Medical Services professionals arrive. You can do it. Someone’s life will depend on it.