Friday, November 5, 2010

Breaking Ribs to Save Lives

Good news: CPR is easier than you thought!

I used to be scared of taking a CPR course. I thought it would be gross, involving lip-on-lip action with someone other than my husband. Also, I figured it was probably complicated, with lots of steps to remember, and counting, and if you did it wrong and the person died you could get sued.

I was wrong on all counts. First of all, four Canadian provinces, including Ontario, have passed Good Samaritan laws. According to

Good Samaritan Law or Doctrine:a legal principle that prevents a rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress from being successfully sued for 'wrongdoing.' Its purpose is to keep people from being so reluctant to help a stranger in need for fear of legal repercussions if they made some mistake in treatment.

Cool! Check your local laws to see if there's an equivalent in your area.

Artificial respiration is not required. What? How can you keep someone alive without the kiss of life? Well, it seems that when you are pounding away on someone's heart, you end up working their lungs like a bellows. Proper chest compressions go down to half the resting height of the chest, and then back up again, which sucks air in and out of the lungs, which equals breathing. It may not be very deep breathing, but your patient will get some oxygen as long as the airway is clear.

Our teacher said compressions-only CPR is the next great trend. It's so new that he's not officially supposed to be teaching it yet, but it'll be on next year's course. Therefore, no counting of compressions or breaths is required.

Spark's short course in CPR*:

1. When you see a person collapsed on the floor, first check for environmental hazards before approaching them. You don't want to be the next victim of toxic gas or a gang fight.

2. Tap them and shout "Are you OK?" a few times to see if they are responsive. Hold your ear over their mouth for ten seconds to see if there is regular breathing. If they respond or if they're breathing, they're not dead, so they don't need CPR.

3. If they don't respond, call 911!

4. Here insert more protocols if the person was choking, to clear the airway. Things are also different if you're dealing with a child under the age of 9. However, if you've got an adult who is probably in the midst of a heart attack, proceed with compressions.

5. It's not recommended that you bother to try to find a pulse. It's hard for medical professionals to find a pulse on a wide-awake person. Joe Average is probably not going to be able to locate a pulse one someone who is unconscious with low blood pressure. Here's the thing: if their heart is beating, you're not going to stop it by doing CPR. The worst you're going to do is break some ribs. (Good Samaritan Act!) And if they're dead, they can't get any deader. So you may as well start compressions to give them a chance of being resuscitated once the paramedics get there.

6. Put one hand on top of the other, palms down. Interlace your fingers. Lock your elbows. The instructor said, and I quote, "Find the centre of the nipple line". I'd say a better way of putting it is find the spot directly between the armpits. Place the heel of your bottom hand on the bony centre of the ribcage over the heart, and start pumping!

7. Each compression should be halfway down the depth of the ribcage. As I mentioned before, there is a 99% chance that you will break ribs. If you don't compress deep enough, there's no point to the exercise. Even with effective CPR, a person's chances of surviving a massive heart attack go down by 10% with each passing minute. Most ambulances take 9-10 minutes to arrive. So compress that chest like you mean it, because you may be giving that person their only chance at survival. Also, at the top of each compression, all your weight should come off your hands for a fraction of a second.

8. Sing "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Out loud. Seriously. That is the tempo you need to keep up with your compressions.

9. Recruit bystanders to help you. CPR is exhausting. You probably won't be able to keep up effective compessions for more than 1 or 2 minutes at a time. Coach your helpers on how to do the compressions properly.

10. Keep it up until the ambulance arrives and the paramedics take over.

11. Go have a good, stiff drink. See, you can do it! I knew you could!

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I have only taken one CPR course and I don't guarantee that my notes were 100% perfect. This post is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a real CPR education. If you'd like to get properly qualified, please take a course from an accredited instructor.


Jenski said...

These crib notes would be effective in helping me help a trained person like yourself when they need a break. I really should add a CPR and/or first aid course to my to-do list!

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Ron talking to paramedics: "Well first I removed her restrictive clothing, then I tried to establish where her nipple line was.... that took quite a while... well then everything sort of snowballed from there...."

LL Cool Joe said...

I think I'd just call the ambulance!

Thanks for the lesson!

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: It's been on my to-do list for years. I'm so glad that I finally got around to it! Literally what it took was for my workplace to bring a trainer onsite. All I had to do was sign up and pay.

Ron: LOL I'm sure you'd be so tempted by a mostly-dead, perspiring older lady. (Apparently people get really sweaty when they're having a massive heart attack.)

LL Cool Joe: If you ever find yourself in that terrible situation, just remember to sing "Stayin' Alive" and it will all come back to you. You may say that you'd only want to call an ambulance, but if it's someone you really care about, you'll want to do something more.

DarcsFalcon said...

Find the nipple line? Hahahahaha! What if it's an older lady, or someone like me who's nursed babies for an extended length of time? Nipple line and belly button can be kind of synonymous! LOL I like the armpit thing better. ;)

Good for you for taking the course. That's one of those things I've always meant to do but never got around to it.

G said...

Cool notes.

Unfortunately, I believe in our state we don't have the Good Samaritan law on the books (we don't have Jessica's law on the books either, but that's another story for another day).

Too many lawyers in the state in the state equals a powerful lobby of stupid.

Sparkling Red said...

DarcsFalcon: The instructor explained that "once you cut off the bra, the person is lying on their back... it all falls to the same line, just off to the sides." At which point the nipples might be in the armpits pretty much anyway, so why not just say armpits? Personally I think he was trying to keep our attention by finding any reason to make jokes, weird or otherwise.

G: That's too bad. I'm glad it exists in my province, although I didn't learn about it until last week, and that kind of law doesn't help unless people realize that it exists.

Claire said...

I love the idea of Good Samaritan laws...I wonder if the UK have something similar?


Lynn said...

This is such useful information - I need to take a class in this. I've always meant to. But this gives me an idea of what to do.