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AED devices used to treat cardiac arrest and life-saving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) have been in the headlines a lot lately. Hopefully, we've all become more aware that when a person's heart has stopped beating for any reason, it's important to take action.
Dr. Bradley Mikaelian, a cardiologist with UCHealth, says that in many cases, he is able to treat patients because someone else has taken action first. "Oftentimes when we see patients in the hospital that had a cardiac arrest, there is some story that gives you chills. I can think about a patient who was in line at Starbucks. She happened to have a cardiac nurse and two people behind her in line when she had a cardiac arrest. That nurse gave her high-quality CPR and kept her alive until the ambulance crew was able to get there. Another patient was in line at a Home Depot and collapsed and there was a military medic nearby. He was able to give that person CPR and that helped that person survive and get to the hospital. Often we hear those stories and we think, ‘Wow, that was fortunate.’ But the truth of the matter is, when there's not somebody nearby who's trained, we often don't get the chance to see those patients because they don't survive to the hospital.”
Getting CPR certified will give you the most knowledge and training. Lori Morgan is an injury prevention specialist for UCHealth, a certified CPR instructor, and a former paramedic. She explains: “Getting certified is great, but that will come with a cost. You can also take hands-only CPR training - which is not going to cost you any money.”
If you're not certified and someone's heart has stopped, even if you have no idea what to do - Lori says you can call 911. “If you’re not certified or trained in CPR, or hands-only CPR, and you call 911, dispatchers are trained to teach you over the phone how to do compressions.”
In an emergency situation like cardiac arrest or heart attack, it's natural to be hesitant and think you might do more harm than good because you're not trained. Morgan says that’s not the case. “The thing is, they're technically dead If their heart is not pumping. So if you hurt them by maybe cracking their sternum - and that's a side effect of CPR - but if you don't do anything, the person is not going to survive. So getting involved is very important.”
Morgan says to keep doing them until EMS arrives to take over.
“In my experience as a paramedic, I've done CPR a lot. Sometimes you'll see with compressions people will open their eyes. That doesn't necessarily mean that you should stop compressions. If they start pushing you off them, that would be a good indication that you could stop compressions, even before EMS arrives.”
So here are the takeaways: learn CPR and even if you're not certified, mentally prepare now to take action if the need arises.
Dr. Mikaelian adds, “In that kind of crisis situation if you can give good quality CPR - that could very well save someone's life someday.”
The American Red Cross offers online and in-person CPR and AED classes.
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