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CPR: A Hands-On Way to Save a Life

The power to save a life is in your own hands, and this post will walk you through the simple step-by-steps to resuscitating someone who has collapsed and has stopped breathing or is breathing irregularly.
04/11/2016 10:17am ET | Updated April 12, 2017
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The power to save a life is in your own hands, and this post will walk you through the simple step-by-steps to resuscitating someone who has collapsed and has stopped breathing or is breathing irregularly.

The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association are a wealth of life-saving information and I learned several facts about CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) that I hadn't previously known. For instance:

• Each year in the United States, there are 350,000 resuscitation attempts outside of a medical setting. (http://heart.org)

•Approximately 70 percent of CPR happens in the home and is typically performed on a family member. (http://heart.org)

•Nationwide, the average EMS (Emergency Medical Services) response time is 9-10 minutes, although this can vary significantly by city. (http://www.nedarc.org)

•According to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of people are not educated on basic CPR protocol rendering them helpless in situations that require immediate hands-on action. (http://heart.org)

Speaking on behalf of family caregivers, I found the last point alarming and wanted to find out if this was the case within our community. So, with the help of the online survey company Critical Mix, Caring Today conducted market research, polling 1,000 people to see if family caregivers were knowledgeable about CPR. Unfortunately, the answer was "no." We discovered that nearly 72 percent of family caregivers felt unprepared in situations that necessitated CPR, saying they did not feel confident they could properly perform the technique. So let's change those stats!

Before we get into the how-tos of Hands-Only CPR, let's dispel several myths:

MYTH: When administering CPR if the person does not regain consciousness, CPR is not working.
FACT: False. In most circumstances, the primary goal of CPR is to keep blood flowing to brain, heart and other vital organs. When CPR is performed correctly, blood flow can be maintained regardless of consciousness.

MYTH: The number of times chest compressions should be performed varies depending on the recipient's age.
FACT: False. After speaking with Dr. Stephan Mayer, Chairperson of the CPR Committee at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, I learned that it is essential to compress the chest (that means pushing the chest down about 2-3 inches) at a rate of at least 100 beats per minute regardless of the age of the person in distress. And, once you begin, don't worry about checking the person's pulse until professional help arrives. According to Dr. Mayer, at this stage, checking pulse rates can hurt more than help.

MYTH: If the person's heart doesn't start beating on its own after a few minutes of CPR their chances for survival are slim.
FACT: Not necessarily. Medical research shows that a combination of bystander (aka you or I) and professional CPR for up to an hour can still result in survival.

MYTH: If the person is breathing irregularly, they do not need CPR.
FACT: Nope. If someone has collapsed and is breathing irregularly (i.e., gasping for air) they also need CPR.

MYTH: Hands-Only CPR is not as effective as Conventional CPR (CPR that includes rescue breaths).
FACT: Again, not true. Hands-Only CPR performed by a bystander has been shown to be as effective as Conventional CPR in the first few minutes of an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest.

TWO steps to help save a life with Hands-Only CPR

Dr. Graham Nichol, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and an active advocate for educating the general public on Hands-Only CPR, views cardiac arrest as a treatable condition. Let's take a few minutes to correctly learn Hands-Only CPR and help prove Dr. Nichol's right. And who knows, one of the lives you save could be MINE. So, chop, chop!

If a loved one, friend, or stranger collapses and either stops breathing or is breathing irregularly...

FIRST: Immediately call 911 and request professional medical attention!

SECOND: Follow these six simple steps to correctly perform Hands-Only CPR:

1. Kneel beside the person who needs help.

2. Place the heel of one hand on the center of their chest.

3. Place the heel of the other hand on top of the first hand, and then lace your fingers together.

4. Position your body so that your shoulders are directly over your hands, and keep your arms straight.

5. Push hard, push fast. Use your body weight to help you administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute. (Just be sure to let the chest rise completely between compressions.)

6. Keep pushing. Continue Hands-Only CPR until: You see obvious signs of life, like breathing; another trained responder or EMS professional can take over; you're too exhausted to continue; an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) becomes available; or the scene becomes unsafe.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words PLEASE complete your Hands-Only CPR orientation by watching this 62-second demonstration from the American Heart Association: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8iU3Mtblho.

Over the past month, I have been speaking to family caregivers about Hands-Only CPR. One question that keeps coming up is, "How can I be sure I am compressing the chest at the right pace"? To answer this, the American Heart Association recommends using the rhythm of the Bee Gee's 1970s song Stayin Alive as a guide for the pace of your compressions. (REALLY, but the good news is when performing Hands-Only CPR you don't have to wear a John Travolta white disco suit!)

Now that you know the basics of Hands-Only CPR, you should feel a lot more confident should such a situation arise! Please review it, practice it and ask any questions in the comment section. I promise your question will be answered.

Please note: This Hands-Only CPR method is designed to be used on teens and adults, not infants and toddlers. To correctly administer CPR on these little guys, please view this video from Dr. Jim Sears, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeI7uiD8TZU.

Help yourself by correctly learning Hands-Only CPR. Help others in the event these skills are needed!