It’s Your Health: You could save lives — learn CPR

Pay attention. Doing something is better than doing nothing if you observe a cardiac arrest. It’s imperative to act immediately because the chance of survival plummets by as much as 10 percent every minute.

Last July, I wrote a column about a CPR program developed by director Dr. Gordon Ewy and colleagues at Tucson’s University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center. You can read the entire article at

Basically, the researches discovered that eliminating mouth-to-mouth breathing and focusing solely on chest compressions preserves brain function and heightens survival.

In a study presented at a 2006 scientific session of the American Heart Association (AHA), survival rates following cardiac arrest tripled in the Phoenix area when emergency personnel used the chest compression-only protocol.

Other research suggests that omitting mouth-to-mouth could dramatically increase the number of ordinary persons inclined to attempt a rescue, which makes sense since many people are afraid they’ll do something wrong or are too frightened and upset to react. Others, blatantly, do not want mouth-to mouth contact with a stranger.

I’m mentioning all this again because I just renewed my CPR/AED certification. Everyone should take a class or at least be aware of what to do in a crisis situation. The American Heart Association seems to have streamlined the four-hour session to make it more “user friendly”. I took the class two years ago and it was detailed and precise (I assume their rationale is to make it more appealing to the “I don’t think I can do this” crowd).

Although the AHA guidelines advocate alternating chest compressions with short breaths in a ratio of 30 to 2, our class discussed the compression only method. Our Emergency Medical Technician instructor mentioned the Arizona program and the awesome success rate of Phoenix firefighters using this sensible approach. Some time down the line the compression-only prototype will probably be standard.

Over the years, both the AHA and Red Cross have ‘adjusted’ CPR protocol a dizzying number of times. Three breaths, two breaths, long, short, head tilt with fingers under the chin or side of the jaw… how many compressions this week? Finally, CPR is starting to make sense.

During ‘season’, frequent emergency sirens are a reminder that we all should be prepared to assist in some manner if necessary.

Please take a CPR/AED class but in the meantime, here’s what to do if you see somebody collapse from cardiac arrest:

Dial 911! If someone else is near, instruct the person to call 911 and also look for an automated emergency (aka: external) defibrillator (AED). This device is a proven lifesaver. It delivers an electric shock to the heart, which when applied within minutes, can restore a normal heartbeat.

If you’re alone, call 911, then begin chest compressions. If you saw the victim collapse, you need not check the airway or pulse.

Press the chest — again and again. Put the victim on the floor on his/her back. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest and the heel of your other hand on top of it. Lock your elbows and press down firmly to push the chest inward (about 2 inches for an adult). Let up slightly after each push to allow the chest to rebound. Repeat the press-and-relax cycle quickly. If you have help, take turns, switching quickly, and continue until emergency personnel arrive and tell you to stop.

Shock if possible. If an AED becomes available, stop compressions, attach the device and follow directions.

Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing… and you could save someone’s life.


Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail:

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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