Forget the kiss but keep to the beat of ‘Stayin’ Alive’
Don’t waste time waiting for an ambulance to arrive, keep the victim alive with some basic chest compressions
An automated external defibrillator (AED) and dummy. A volunteer can be trained in their use to save lives. Photograph: Thinkstock
Brian Bruno: his students saved his life with their CPR training. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
If one of your loved ones collapsed in front of you because their heart suddenly stopped beating, would you know what to do? Most of us would feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because we are not trained to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or we are afraid of hurting the victim.
With about 60 per cent of collapses occurring in front of family or friends – often in the home – the reality is that you could be called on to save the life of a loved one. By using a very simple technique, you could double or even triple their chance of survival.
For every minute a person is collapsed without receiving CPR or defibrillation (the delivery of an electric shock to the heart), their chance of survival decreases by 8-10 per cent. After five minutes, their chance of survival may be reduced by as much as 50 per cent, so waiting for the ambulance to arrive can make it too late.
However, Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) basic life-support resuscitation expert Brigid Sinnott explains that, without any specialised training, you can still help to save a life by using hands-only CPR to provide continuous chest compressions to victims of sudden cardiac arrest.
Hands-only CPR, also known as compression-only CPR, has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR for sudden cardiac arrest at home, at work or in public, according to the American Heart Association. It can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival and can be performed effectively by children from as young as 10.
Hard and fast campaign
The IHF is following in the footsteps of the British Heart Foundation, which launched a major “hard and fast” hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation campaign fronted by hard-man actor Vinnie Jones in 2012 to raise awareness of the technique.
The IHF’s 25th Happy Hearts Appeal takes place this week, from Thursday to Saturday, with all money raised going directly into educating adults and young people on how to deliver compression-only CPR.
Every year in Ireland, an estimated 5,000 people die suddenly from cardiac arrest when their hearts stop beating; between 70 and 100 of these deaths occur in people under the age of 35. Seven out of 10 of these deaths happen in public view, according to the IHF, and often in the presence of a bystander.
However, as Sinnott points out, their chances of survival can greatly improve if a bystander is able to keep their heart going through hands-only CPR until a first responder with a defibrillator or ambulance arrive at the scene.
“Many people are afraid to do CPR in an emergency because of their lack of knowledge,” she says, “and many more are put off by the thought of having to give the kiss of life. We are urging the public to forget the kiss of life, and go straight to hard and fast compressions on the chest after calling 999 or 112 to make sure emergency services are on the way.
“The bottom line is that if you do not start compressions, that person will die. You can do no harm.”
If someone collapses in front of you and is not breathing or responsive, the advice is to lock the fingers of your two hands together and start pushing down hard and fast in the centre of the chest, about two pushes a second, to the beat of the Bee Gees’ disco classic Stayin’ Alive, which has 100 beats per minute. Keep going until the ambulance arrives or the victim wakes up and starts breathing normally.
Remember the rhythm
People feel more confident performing hands-only CPR and are more likely to remember the correct rhythm when trained to the beat of Stayin’ Alive, according to the American Heart Association.