Saving a life with CPR is 'really, really easy' and more of us should try, leading emergency physician says

If someone's collapsed, is not responsive and not breathing, would you know what to do?

If a person's like that, it means their heart's stopped (which doctors call a cardiac arrest).

It's not good news.

But if someone around knows what to do, they can save a life. That person can be you.

You can save a life really, really easily.

All you need to do is learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Basically, it's pressing on the person's chest with your hands.

Just have a go

Once you've recognised someone's heart has stopped, the number one thing to know is that you can't do any harm.

It's impossible to hurt someone in cardiac arrest because they're already dead.

Restarting a heart

  • CPR will help keep someone alive, but restarting a heart needs a defibrillator.
  • Many buildings have portable defibrillators (also known as AEDs) that anyone can use.
  • They give voice instructions to tell you what to do.
  • A helper should always look for one while CPR is done.

What if you break their ribs? Who cares! Would you rather be alive with a broken rib or dead? It's that simple.

Can you be sued? Absolutely not. The law is very robust and you won't be sued for having a go.

Worried about how many breaths to do? Don't be. Hands only is fine.

All you have to do is press hard and fast in the centre of the chest with the heel of your hand.

If you're still not sure how fast, Stayin' Alive from the Bee Gees is about the right beat.

Act fast

You need to act fast because every minute that goes by without anyone doing anything reduces the odds of survival by 10 per cent.

At 10 minutes, if no-one's done anything, the person is dead. At about four minutes, irreversible brain damage starts setting in.

What one thing do those working at the coal face of health in Australia want us to know?

  • Don't smoke
  • Just use your hands (and do CPR)
  • Have honest conversations
  • Know stroke signs
  • Keep your brain healthy

So even if an ambulance is called straight away, there's a good chance help will arrive too late.

But doing CPR means that person may be able to hang on until help arrives. That's because CPR pushes blood up from the person's heart into their brain.

It's in your hands

Some 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest in Australia each year and 90 per cent of them will die.

Cardiac arrest kills more people than lung and breast cancer, trauma and stroke all combined.

It's not just common and lethal. It's a problem everyone can do something about right now.

It needs all Australians to learn how to press on someone's chest.

It needs the two hands at the end of your arms. And that's it.

Paul Middleton is Clinical Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine, University of Sydney; Chair of Australian Resuscitation Council (NSW) and Chair Take Heart Australia.

Source: ABC News

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