The Rutherford Report: Hands-Only CPR Can Save a Life

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“Despite everything, I think people are really good at heart.”

—Anne Frank
Hands-Only CPR Can Save a Life
The key to staying alive is a pumping heart.

On average, about 89 percent of people who suffer from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die because they don’t receive immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation, better known as CPR.

That’s why everyone should know how to perform this lifesaving technique.

About three years ago, the American Heart Association (AHA) began emphasizing the need to do chest compressions without the mouth-to-mouth breaths that have been standard with CPR for more than 40 years.

The idea behind the change is simple: There’s already oxygen in a person’s blood stream when they suffer from a sudden cardiac episode, so rescue breaths aren’t as important as keeping oxygen flowing to the brain and heart muscles through effective CPR.

The new method is called hands-only CPR, and trainers often teach people to do chest compressions to the beat of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. If you’re not a disco fan, don’t worry. You can use any song you want as long as the beat helps you do at least 100 chest compressions every minute.

Many local cities and agencies offer comprehensive CPR training courses that cover a range of lifesaving techniques, but learning hands-only CPR is as easy as visiting the American Heart Association website and viewing a short video.

Calling 911 is the first thing you should do in any situation where a person appears to suffer from cardiac arrest—i.e. the person passes out, is unresponsive and is not breathing normally.

If you don’t know CPR, the 911 dispatcher will tell you how to perform chest compressions, but it’s better if you already have some knowledge of this lifesaving technique.

Lay the patient on their back and place the palm of one hand in the center of the patient’s chest. Then place the palm of your second hand on top of your other hand and lace your fingers together.

Lock your elbows so your arms are straight and position your shoulders directly above the center of the patient’s chest. This will allow you to use the weight of your upper body to compress the person’s chest rather than just your arms.

Begin compressing the person’s chest quickly to ensure at least 100 compressions every minute. Hum the tune “Staying Alive” if it helps. Be sure to allow the person’s chest to recoil completely each time. Push hard and fast.

Unless the patient wakes up and is alert, you will need to continue doing chest compressions until paramedics arrive. You might break the patient’s rib doing compressions, but a broken rib is a minor price to pay for staying alive.

The AHA still recommends CPR with compressions and breaths for infants and children and victims of drowning, drug overdose or people who collapse due to breathing problems.

Remember to visit the American Heart Association website to learn more about hands-­only CPR. Look for the hands‐only fact sheet and watch the short demonstration video. The few moments you take to look at these materials could help you save a friend or love one’s life.
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