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Hands Only CPR

October 13, 2021

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It’s a crisp autumn morning as you venture out the front door to walk the dog. You are just getting started down the street, past the neighbor’s houses as you begin your morning routine. You wave hello to the guy on the corner who was nice enough to let you borrow his lawn mower last spring when yours quit. However, you notice your neighbor is breathing fast, and he’s red in the face. You walk a little closer to ask if he’s okay. And then it happens. He doubles over and falls to the ground. He’s not breathing. What are you going to do?

Did you know that 70% of cardiac arrests are witnessed by bystanders, family, or friends*. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, or CPR, is an emergency life saving procedure performed when the heart stops beating, according to the American Heart Association (AHA)**. This possibly life sustaining act could be performed by everyday hero’s such as yourself. Cardiac arrest claims the lives of almost 500,000 Americans a year. There is something you can do to help your neighbor, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

In 2008, the AHA began asking the American public to attempt hands-only CPR. This is where the person who witnesses the arrest runs to the person’s side, checks for breathing and a pulse (by placing their fingers on the crease of the neck closest to the person’s throat, running those fingers toward the head 3 inches and then feeling). If no breathing or pulse is noted after five to 10 seconds, yell at someone to call 911 while you place both of your hands, stacked on top of each other with laced fingers, and begin to push hard and fast on their chest.

You don’t have to give mouth to mouth! Why?

The blood in your body is always carrying some amount of oxygen to your tissues, even when you aren’t breathing. You still carry about 80% of the same amount of oxygen back to your heart, as long as your pump keeps working. And that is where you come in.

Bystander CPR increases the likelihood of successful resuscitation by 300%! That means the person you try to save is three times more likely to survive if they receive immediate CPR. This doesn’t mean waiting for the fire department or the ambulance to arrive. It means starting compressions immediately.

The first question I usually get asked is “What about COVID?”

Always protect yourself first. This means wearing a face covering and possibly glasses or sunglasses if you have access to them. Then, place a cloth over the victim’s face while initiating CPR so as not to unnecessarily expose yourself to possible infection.

Now push hard, compressing the chest at a rate of 100-120 times a minute, at a depth of about two inches every compression. Have others stand six feet away from the victim’s face, and no one should congregate over the person unless needed to relieve you once you have compressed for two full minutes. CPR is exhausting, and you are going to need help. If you feel yourself getting too tired, and others have gathered to help, ask one of them to take over so that you can rest. This ensures the victim gets the best chance of survival. Once EMT’s have taken over, remove your mask, eyewear, and possibly any clothing that was in contact with the victim and then wash with soap and water.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to be the very best neighbors we can be. The medical professionals and nursing staff at Boone County Hospital are here to support you, our neighbors. We desire the very best for our patients, and for our community. Please consider lending a pair of helping hands in the event that you one day witness a cardiac arrest. Your neighbors will thank you for it.       

Written by Joshua Dodd, RN/PM, BSN


*Giuntoli, L. (2018). Impact of bystander early CPR on out of hospital ROSC outcome. doi:10.26226/morressier.5b586bdfdbdc3e001323177b
**Perman, S. M. (2020). Overcoming fears to save lives. Circulation, 142(13), 1233-1235. doi:10.1161/circulationaha.120.048909


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