CPR is painful

I suppose having someone pound on your chest for several minutes would be painful if you didn’t happen to be dead at the time, but I won’t be writing about how CPR is painful to the recipient. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is exhausting and uncomfortable to perform. I took a Basic Life Support class last Friday and I ended up with a bruise on my wrist and my knees were screaming for the rest of the day in spite of the egg crate cushion we used while kneeling. The good news is that apart from the physical aspects, CPR gets easier for a potential rescuer every year. I used to complain that key aspects of CPR (such as the ratio of breaths to compressions) change every year, but lately the changes are simplifying the procedure rather than complicating it. I think the idea is to not intimidate people to the point that they will hesitate to use what they have learned. The most important improvement is with the newest AED devices (automated external defibrillators). These will literally talk you through a resuscitation. The first thing you hear when you open it is “remain calm”. I’m not sure how reassuring this will be when someone collapses in front of you, but I suppose it is a good start. The sticky pads are now one continuous pad, so placement is hard to mess up. Also, the machine will only shock someone with an abnormal heart rhythm, so there is essentially no danger of giving someone an unneeded shock. Unless of course you forget to yell ‘clear’ and someone is still touching the person who is receiving the shock.

The key points were to call for help first, then find the nearest AED before initiating compressions. Even if you have NO CPR training, this is good advice. Go ahead and open the AED (look around, they are everywhere nowadays). If you don’t happen to be carrying a mask designed for breathing into someone’s mouth, it is still useful to open the AED, follow its instructions and administer chest compressions until help arrives or the person regains a pulse. Our instructor mentioned that the primary obstacles preventing people from administering CPR even after they have had some training are: fear of germs (the solution—skip the breathing part) and fear of a lawsuit (the solution—the good Samaritan law). One thing he didn’t mention is whether or not people might hesitate to give CPR to a woman because applying the AED sticky pads requires tearing open the shirt and bra (the kit includes a pair of scissors). The other point that our instructor really emphasized was to not move someone (who is breathing and has a pulse) if he has been in an automobile accident or even if he is an older person who has collapsed forcefully. He said that the best thing you can do for someone in that situation is to leave them as they are in the car or on the ground, but to stabilize the head to protect from neck injury, and of course call for help. The last piece of advice that I’d particularly like my friends and family members to pay attention to is the idea of “ICEing” your cell phone. This means you should program in an emergency contact person literally listing his name as “ICE” which stands for “In Case of Emergency”. First responders including police, firemen and ambulance personnel will know to call this person as soon as possible.

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